Randall makes a tough plot look easy, and easy moves feel difficult.
I had the opportunity to play a demo of We The Force Studios’ upcoming puzzle platformer Randall at PAX Prime this weekend, and the concept of the game blew me away. Randall is set in a dystopian world that, as the developers point out, doesn’t seem like a departure from our own future. Society is living under the constant surveillance of a malicious dictator, near-unanimously brainwashed into submission and entirely unaware of the oppression they are living with.
The game’s protagonist, a schizophrenic young man named Randall, has not suffered the effects of this brainwashing. Randall has psychic powers that he is able to use in order to enter the mind of any on-screen enemy, allowing him to assume control of their movements and exploit any powers they may have. This can be used in order to reach higher areas, solve puzzles within the game, navigate through typically inaccessible areas (like by flying), or by sacrificing them in order to navigate dangerous environmental obstacles. Killing your enemies in the game rarely solves any issues – you are encouraged to use your enemies in order to advance.
The player navigates through a series of environmental dangers that puts their character at risk of death by fire, laser, electrocution, and more. The environment can be tricky to navigate, and I was noticeably better at combat than at wall jumps, but at least the deaths are a delightful combination of cartoony design and bloody demise. The game has the sort of old-school difficulty and super-tight controls that led to me mumbling curse words and wanting to smash a controller against the wall. However, once killed you respawn in nearly the same place that you died in, making the challenge of the levels at least a bit fair.
As for criticism, I can’t offer much due to the limited amount of available content. One issue I found myself struggling to get around was related to the wall jumps. When attempting to jump to the wall immediately below where I was standing, I found myself attempting a drop-down to hang from the ledge first – a move that I died four times attempting before I realized it wasn’t actually an option. With the tightness of the controls and difficulty of the level design, that would be a feature I personally would like to see in the final release.
As enjoyable as the available content for the game was, I found myself constantly aware of the music. The music for the game is by a band called Bestia Maria, where one of the game’s creators is a member. Their Facebook page is here, and I felt it was definitely worth noting.
The schizophrenia topic was approached masterfully, and swapping between controlling your primary character and assuming control over an enemy’s movements was surprisingly fluid. When combined with the powerful music and difficult level designs, Randall has made its way to my list of games to watch closely for in the future.
Randall is expected to release on PS4, PS Vita, and Steam in 2016.