Randall is a side-scrolling platformer with high hopes of being the next Metroid. The player takes the role of Randall, a telepathic, schizophrenic hero with the goal of taking down an oppressive regime in a dystopian world. Indie developer We The Force has truly created something special. It is unfortunate, however, that Randall is plagued by minor control issues and game-breaking bugs.
Running on the Unity engine Randall is very pleasing aesthetically. Far in the distance, the bright orange sun is a stark contrast to the blues and greens of the Nook city streets where the player spends their time jumping and fighting. Subtle details like graffiti and posters on the wall are successful in immersion and the developers attempt to tell the story of this dystopian world. Both the player and the enemies’ appearances stand out amongst the background in a positive way. Although, in some areas, there is noticeable screen tearing on the PS4, which can be rather jarring for a side-scroller such as this.
The original soundtrack does an excellent job of remaining atmospheric until the action amps up. Which is a good thing, because audio didn’t seem to be mixed very well so the music is much louder compared to the rest of the audio in the game. Sound effects are limited, and only seem to work half of the time. A missed opportunity in immersion comes from the fact that none of the environmental hazards have their own sound effects.
The controls could use more work. Part of the platforming comes not just from jumping but from using the hop mechanic. This hop mechanic is very similar to a jump, but results in a cool spin animation that sends the player further horizontally with a set vertical height. The hop requires the player to combine its dash move with the jump move. The precision required to accomplish the move (pressing two buttons at once) can result in countless frustrating deaths.
Combat is a chore in the beginning. The choice to tie the block function with the dash keeps the player mobile, but also makes it difficult to stand ground. Unlocking the mind control powers makes for a much more fun experience. The combat is much more forgiving than the platforming segments. One wrong move while platforming and you start over. However, during combat the player can be hit numerous times. Holding a hit streak of 5 or more results in health regeneration. Boss battles felt varied and thought provoking. They require the player to use the environment and their many skills to take down their opponent.
The level design is undoubtedly the highlight of Randall. Every level feels thought out, and forces the player to use Randall’s many abilities in meticulous fashion. Not only will the player need to look at the platforming elements as a puzzle to be solved, but they will also need to hone their skills in order to progress. The later inclusion of mind control powers is brilliantly used in both combat and platforming. Controlling a flying enemy to fly around hazards, or taking control of an enemy with magnetic boots means walking on the roof. Not only did it feel very satisfying, but it meant looking at levels in different ways.
The highlights of Randall being the level design and its mind control mechanic are ironically its downfall. The upgrades Randall receives are accessed via points on the wall of certain areas. This would work if the game had a very linear structure. Alternatively, Randall attempts to have a more open-world structure. Finding keys and unlocking abilities means you can slowly access new areas. There is the unfortunate side-effect of back tracking with this structure. In a game where the platforming requires as much precision as this game does, it quickly becomes tedious. In comes the teleport stations. The player can use these stations to quickly travel back and forth between the various locations. “Quickly” maybe a bit of a stretch considering the long load times that follow. Even worse is the fact that traveling back to some areas means certain skills and keys are no longer unlocked. The player has to either retread the same beaten path or just start over. Another instance was a scenario requiring the player to take control of an enemy with the aforementioned magnetic boots in order progress. However, the enemy just slid around the map untouchable, resulting in progress to be impossible. Hopefully, We The Force will fix these issues in a future patch.
Control issues, minor technical hiccups, and bugs bring down an otherwise solid side-scrolling experience. Therefore, Randall receives a 5 out of 10.
Here is the Randall Review for PS4 Game Breaking Bug Video:
Randall launches on PlayStation 4 (North America only) and Steam today, June 6, 2017.