Rakoo is a fuzzy critter on a mission for love, so naturally he recruits his friends as wingmen of sorts in his quest to woo his beloved. I grab some friends and controllers and see if I can help this hapless creature find his soul’s dearest wish.
Rakoo and Friends, a port of the mobile game Rakoo’s Adventure, plays as a side-scrolling runner game where the level flies past you on automatic. Rakoo himself must avoid all the obstacles on the screen while collecting the various flowers and coins dotted around the landscape. The “and friends” bit involves four of Rakoo’s friends: Pakoo, Boolby, Screamy, and Loovy, and each of these friends are there to help Rakoo clear the path of enemies (except for Loovy, whose job it is to give Rakoo more health). The more pets you use, the less health Rakoo will have at the start of the level, making it a risk/reward system, as long as you can accept the reward of “passing the level”. It’s not made clear what the coins are for, but you can use the flowers to buy silly hats, which have no apparent effect on gameplay.
The best and most outstanding part of the game is the artwork. Rakoo is simply adorable, and the designs of the enemies and landscapes are delightfully pretty to behold. The art feels a lot like Rayman Origins, and the animation is smooth. Musically, the game seems to aim for an African sound. As someone from Africa, I’m not sure they succeeded, but it’s certainly fun to listen to.
Gameplay wise, you control Rakoo with the analog stick, and you can either control his four pets/friends with each of the face buttons (and each character is assigned their own face button), or you can grab four friends, put Wii Remotes in their hands, and let them do the damage. I played like this with my sons and their cousins, and it was an absolute blast, even as the action got more frenetic. There were so many things going on at once that there were times I lost Rakoo in the insanity. Taking control of one of the pets made it no less chaotic, but it was a heck of a lot of fun, even if Rakoo only has one life point with all four pets deployed.
There were several downsides to the game, and my biggest niggle was that every now and again, the action would stutter and jump, and somehow the jump causes Rakoo to not collect flowers, or not destroy an enemy he otherwise would have. It makes playing some of the later levels a horribly frustrating experience, especially if you have the full complement of friends, leaving you with a single life point. One Hit Wonder, here we come! Another issue with the game is that it doesn’t offer anything new, really. It’s still the same game as Rakoo’s Adventure, just with more friends. No mistake, it’s a lot of fun with friends, but playing what is essentially the same thing over and over again gets boring. And one last issue I have is that there’s an odd dichotomy of touch controls and button controls: you move and control Rakoo with the buttons, but level selection and dialog button confirmations are all touch. Furthermore, the buttons to continue or retry at the end of the level only appear on the Wii U Gamepad, not the screen. So there were moments when I’m waiting for a confirmation button to appear as I’m watching the TV, and it takes me a few moments to realize that the button is only appearing on the Gamepad. And then I have to remove my hands from the buttons to touch the screen. A minor inconvenience? Sure, but it’s the little details like this that you only miss when they’re gone.
Overall, though, Rakoo and Friends is a fun, pretty little game, if a tad light in content and mechanics, especially for the price. The entire game is unlikely to run you more than four hours if you have friends playing and hindering your progress, and you can conceivably finish it in two if you have competent players in control. There’s nothing here that would keep me coming back to it after I’d played the game to completion, not even novelty hats that have no gameplay effect. Not even a melon hat. No matter how cute Rakoo is.
Final Score: 6.5 Lovestruck prawns out of 10
Developer: Old Skull Games
Ported by: Moving Player
Platform: Nintendo Wii U (up to 5 players simultaneously)
Age Rating: Everyone