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Rack N Ruin Preview: Solving Puzzles and Slaughtering Bunnies as a Powerful Demon
Rack N Ruin is a strange game. And that’s not just because you play as a power-hungry demon on a quest to complete puzzles, kill innocent woodland critters, and destroy planets. The concept is weird enough, but the gameplay feels a bit pointless. Stepping into the demo with no instruction or preface, I felt lost and unmotivated, but the game could succeed if given direction, which it surely will once released.
During my hands-on time with this indie game at PAX East, I controlled an underworldling named Rack as he quested through a forest and temple of a planet known as Galia. Unlike most demons, who seek not to destroy worlds but rule over them, Rack’s only wish is to personally witness the obliteration of such planets by his hands. Much to his demonic lord Corruption’s disapproval, Rack leaves a wake of destruction wherever he goes. Galia, a planet even Corruption could not conquer, will be Rack’s sandbox of annihilation in Rack N Ruin.
The game, developed almost independently by former Blizzard employee Tyler Hunter, has an Invader Zim-like feel to it; just by looking at the protagonist, with his enormous horns and wide eyes, you can tell he’s not a very bright or formidable foe. Sure, he’s powerful, but he won’t be leading any armies or conquering planets anytime soon. His talent is to ruin, and that’s exactly what he’s going to do.
Starting off, I noticed the unusual art direction Rack N Ruin has taken. The game is hand-painted, and the unique style clearly shows in its crisp visuals. Bounding down the forest path, I begin my quest.
Rack had four abilities in the demo: a sword, a firebolt spell, a lightning spell, and telekinesis to move objects for puzzle-solving. Taking out a few enemies, I noticed right away how weak the firebolt spell felt in comparison to Rack’s other two moves. Where a couple swings of my sword or one chained bolt of lightning could take out several foes at once, it took more than a few firebolts to put anyone down. I stayed away from the spell for the majority of the demo.
As I aimlessly wandered the woods, killing random enemies and slicing the occasional rabbit, I finally came to where the game picked up: a temple. Upon entering, I instantly got a Zelda vibe. The top-down gameplay mixed with the classic temple level design made me feel like I was in a dark version of A Link to the Past. By solving simple puzzles that utilized my powers and taking out different enemies as I traveled, I finally ran out of time before taking the headset off and moving on.
After playing both the forest and temple part of the demo, I couldn’t help but feel that the forest section was essentially pointless. It felt like a poorly planned set-up to the meat of the game. Perhaps the full game will feature puzzles and worthwhile gameplay like the temple did rather than just fending off waves of enemies, but only time will tell when the game releases for the PC, Mac, and iOS in the near future.