Imagine for a moment that you’re playing a level that you’ve tried—and failed—upwards of 30 times. You’ve managed to land on that launch pad squarely, you’ve sailed through the air without hitting the pillars that stand awkwardly in your way, and you’ve landed, making that sharp turn without shooting off the edge and hurtling to your death. All that remains between you and the finishing gate is another jump followed by another sharp turn. You have no time to think (stopping means certain death here) so you race forward, land perfectly on the launch pad, and then explode in midair.
Now repeat that over and over again and you’ll have a good idea of how Razed plays out.
Developed by Warpfish Games and published by PQube, Razed is a speedrunning platformer that employs a colorful, minimalist art style, reminiscent of Journey or, more recently, AER: Memories of Old. A pair of shoes have been quantum-locked to your feet and you must use them to traverse the many levels that have been laid out in front of you. There is a slight hitch though, your right shoe has anger issues and will explode with the slightest provocation—or when you run out of energy.
The levels are divided up into worlds with a “boss” level at the end of each. The first world is simple enough, allowing you to get to grips with the basic controls before ramping up the difficulty to an extreme degree. As you move towards the second world, you’ll be introduced to many new obstacles, including lasers, moving platforms, pillars, and floors that fall away if you stand on them for too long. You’ll find Charge Stones to help you, usually placed awkwardly simply to make your life (and the level) just that bit more difficult. Launch pads can propel you a good distance but come with their own frustrations. You’ll unlock abilities as you progress and upgrades are available for those abilities when you collect three upgrade segments. This is easier said than done, however. I can’t count the number of times I’ve spotted an upgrade as I sailed past it or died trying to reach one at the last minute.
But Razed is more than just a platformer; it adds an interesting resource management mechanic. The energy ring that surrounds you serves as a kind of energy meter and is filled by running or picking up Charge Stones. Certain abilities, such as jumping, use that energy, and the aim is to keep your energy from running out completely by constantly moving. It will begin to deplete if you stand still or are not actively running over the ground. Time spent in the air while jumping will also cause your energy to ebb away. This is Razed‘s subtle reminder that it wants you to go fast—it’s about speedrunning after all—but it also wants you to slow down where appropriate, to take that awkward corner or to grab those extra Charge Stones. Holding down the “run” button and hoping for the best isn’t going to get you very far in this game. Trust me, I tried.
As you’d expect from any platformer, the levels are very trial and error. You need to figure out the best way to get through as well as when to jump or when to let yourself fall. On a few occasions, I found I was able to transverse most of a level with relative ease, only to find that I couldn’t make a jump because I didn’t have enough energy and I exploded before landing. This is where Razed becomes about resource management. What starts off as a reasonably challenging platformer suddenly finds you trying to find ways to keep more contact with the floor or using your momentum rather than your jump button, in order to preserve energy.
It often feels that no sooner have you given yourself a pat on the back for getting past a part that you’ve been stuck on for the best part of 20 minutes, you run straight into something else that not only looks impossible but seemingly kills you on sight. What doesn’t help is the occasional lag that seems to happen; I’m sure there have been a few times where I’ve had plenty of energy or have managed to clear an obstacle, but I explode anyway. And we won’t mention that one occasion that I nearly got to the end of the course and promptly got stuck on some invisible barrier and couldn’t move in any direction. Of course, I exploded then too.
Trial and Error
On top of this, everything feels far too random. The jump button doesn’t always seem to work when pressed and when it does, and the distance that you travel seems to vary greatly with each try. This may have something to do with your positioning when you hit a launch pad—if you hit the circle in the center, it seems like you go a lot further whereas anything outside of that gives you a lot less momentum.
Failing dumps you unceremoniously back at the beginning of the level. This isn’t a big deal as they aren’t overly long but it does become painful in some of the later levels as, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find that doing anything repetitive often sees you getting worse, rather than improving. Jumps that I had no problems making the first ten or so times suddenly become impossible, which can add to the overall frustration.
I started out thinking this game was charmingly fun, especially with the resource management adding an extra layer to the gameplay. As I progressed further, this feeling turned to pure frustration at the difficulty and the repetitiveness of having to commit an entire level to muscle memory just to progress far enough to even attempt the really tricky part. And then you have to start the process over again. There’s no “Ooh I’ll just get past this tricky bit and start having some fun!” because you just know that the next level is going to be even harder.
Despite the frustration, Razed succeeds in making you want to come back for more. As you progress through worlds and pick up more abilities, you can go back and replay earlier levels to beat your previous times. This provides a welcome break from some of the frustration of progressing through later levels and clearly adds a lot of replay value to the game overall, especially when you can tackle earlier levels with your hard-earned, new abilities.
Razed review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.