Raskulls is a hard to file under a single genre, as it can probably be best described as a puzzle platformer racer. Or maybe a racing platform puzzler. Hmm, perhaps a platform racing puzzle game. However you choose to describe it, it's a fun little lighthearted and charming XBLA game that will definitely appeal to puzzle platformer racer fans, as well as racing platform puzzler fans, and ... well, you get the idea.
The Raskulls themselves are vaguely medieval, cute little skull-headed characters whose most valued treasure is in danger of being pilfered by pirate rats. The story is just there to provide some entertainment between levels, which it does a pretty good job of thanks to plenty of goofy humor and a penchant for poking fun at itself.
The game itself is a series of challenges that are built around the same basic gameplay. You must reach the end of the level with your little Raskull by breaking through the blocks obstructing your path. To do so you use a wand that zaps the blocks out of existence, but there's a twist to block-zapping. When you eliminate a block the blocks formally supported by it drop down, and if the color of a falling block matches the block that it lands on they merge to form a new, larger block. You'll have to take this into account in the racing levels as you want to be sure that you don't cause a row of blocks to come crashing down on you, or so that you can crush an opponent hot on your heels. This is even more important in the levels that challenge you to reach the end with a limited number of wand zaps as you'll have to think ahead a zap or two to combine the colored blocks as efficiently as possible. Most of the levels also include speed-boosting power-ups that are collected to fill a frenzy meter which when used will have your Raskull moving in double time. Lastly, the competitive races include various power-ups that either help your cause or let you cause a little trouble for your opponents. The levels include races against up to three other opponents, solo races against the clock, and more puzzle-focused levels that include challenges such as getting through a long block wall with limited zaps or making it to the end of the level without ever running completely out of frenzy power. You can play the game completely as a single player experience, compare your score in certain challenge levels to those of friends and strangers via leaderboards, or compete directly against other gamers in the racing levels.
The puzzle levels strike a good balance between challenge and fun – not so easy that you can breeze through them without thinking, but not so challenging as to be frustrating or impossible. The racing levels are fun in a frantic sort of way, but that franticness makes it difficult to be strategic about which blocks you zap or power-ups you use. Winning is more a matter of pounding the zap button as you push your way towards the finish line. Even if you could be a bit more strategic with the power-up attacks, on the whole they're not the most interesting collection of attacks so you're not missing that much in the end. In the end, though, Raskulls is an enjoyable diversion and makes for a nice little addition to your XBLA game library.
One final note, Raskulls is part of the Winter of Arcade game collection, and if you have earned achievements in A World of Keflings or Ilomilo you'll unlock additional characters for the game. Conversely, Raskull achievements will unlock items in those two games as well.
Final Rating: 82%. An enjoyable cross-genre diversion.