Out of all the different types of games I’ve played in my relatively short time on this planet, there are few genres I like more than platformers. They tend to strike the perfect balance between challenge and entertainment, precision and speed, movement and mechanics.
Unfortunately in the case of Rage Among the Stars, after playing I was not left entertained or satisfied but simply…frustrated.
- Hit Detection – This is a big deal in platformers, especially those that reset you all the way back to the beginning of a level upon “death”. If the hit detection on your character or on map hazards is sloppy, no one will waste their time trying to complete areas. It’s hard enough trying to overcome levels explicitly designed to be punishing – the player doesn’t want to be killed by a spike that was nowhere them too. I never once felt that I was dying to a hazard when I shouldn’t have been, and I noticed on several occasions where I just barely squeezed past a spike which would have probably counted as a death in other platformers.
- Air Movement – Another important factor in platformers is the control the player has over the character while the character is in the air. Since platformers focus chiefly on jumping, your character will spend a majority of the game in this state, hence why quality air movement is so crucial. Some platformers’ aerial controls tend to be more “sticky”, where a directional input will be entered but the response from your character is delayed or very slow. Rage Among the Stars does this facet very well: you can input directions nanoseconds prior to landing and still be able to shift your character.
- Humor – This category is heavily subjective, but I think it’s worth mentioning regardless. I found the type of humor utilized in Rage Among the Stars to be somewhat similar to Undertale; kind of a weird, troll-ish type that isn’t afraid to mess with the player and the character they’re controlling. I personally enjoyed the jokes and the personality of the “guide” character, though I’m sure there are some who might find this type of comedy annoying or tiresome.
Awkward Pacing– This is another subjective category, so I’ll try to explain my position as best I can. This isn’t my first platformer rodeo: I’ve played some of the oldies, like Super Mario Bros. 2 and Donkey Kong Country, and I’ve played some newer titles like Celeste, Shovel Knight, and Ori and the Blind Forest. Most of these are fairly difficult (just try to beat a C-Side level in Celeste if you don’t believe me).
However, I never once felt that any of these games’ levels threw you immediately into the lion’s den (well, maybe except for Super Mario Bros. 2). They would introduce a mechanic in a level that would be for learning purposes and only start integrating the new addition after the player has a fairly firm grasp of it.
It doesn’t quite work this way in Rage Among the Stars. Take, for instance, the conveyor belt mechanic. It’s cool at first, but it soon becomes a nightmare as you are repeatedly jettisoned into spikes at the speed of light.
This wouldn’t bug me as much if it weren’t for the incredibly tough level that the conveyor belts are introduced in. It’s easily one of the most twitch-muscle reliant levels in the game and there are no checkpoints. I would have loved a simpler level or two prior to this one to help me feel out the intricacies in a less stressful situation.
I suggest that Rage Among the Stars turns to other influential platformers and mimic how they acquaint the player with new mechanics and then slowly ramp up the difficulty as the player’s mastery of those mechanics increases.
Music – I enjoyed the music for about the first three levels, but after that I had to mute the game. It’s not that the music is bad…on the contrary; I actually found it to be rather catchy. No, the issue is that the same track plays the entire time on repeat. This may change as the player makes it to other worlds, but there needs to be some variance in the music. No matter how much I like a song, I can’t listen to the same one for two hours.
Lack of Movement Customization Options – I played using a keyboard and mouse, so this really won’t apply to those who are experiencing the game on a controller. As it stands right now, the game will only let you move your character with the arrow keys, something wholly foreign to me. I have spent years refining my WASD skills and honing my left hand dexterity, only to have it all become pointless since I can’t customize the controls. Just to be clear, this is a nitpick and should not be viewed as a deal breaker.
Overall, I think Rage Among the Stars has the potential to be a very fun, albeit challenging, platformer. I do believe that it needs some retooling, though. Level design and mechanic introduction could benefit from a second look, and the soundtrack definitely needs some additional songs.
However, mechanically-speaking, the game works very well. Every death feels fair (even if you’re mad about it at the time). If you’re a fan of platformers and are in search of something new (and don’t mind a little high-blood pressure here and there), make sure to give Rage Among the Stars a try.