LifeIsXbox’s Ravenlok review | For those who haven’t heard of Cococucumber or their games before, they’ve managed to nail a voxel-type style that has managed to grab my attention the first time with Echo Generation, and they’ve done it again with this amazing-looking title.
Ravenlok is a modern reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, but with a touch more violence and with a blocky voxel aesthetic that is sure to make your eyes pop. You start the game in the normal world, where you and your parents (and your dog named Waffles) just moved to a countryside house. You discover a mirror in the barn and get sucked into its world of wonders.
A sword, a shield, a magic spell and an introduction by the well-known white rabbit later, you’re slashing away at enemies in a game that mostly has its jaw-dropping visual style going for it. If the rest holds up or not… well, you’ll have to dive into the rabbit hole for that…
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by Stride PR, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What we Liked!
- The amazing voxel aesthetic | Ravenlok sure is a looker. It’s a visual feast for the eyes that features a unique blend of voxel-style graphics with intricately detailed 3D characters. The attention to detail and artistry in the game are truly impressive, and it’s clear that the developers put a lot of thought and effort into creating a beautiful world full of characters inspired by Alice in Wonderland, a fairytale we’re all familiar with.
- The characters | There are some pretty cool character designs scattered throughout the game and the environments are very detailed as well, with hardly a copy/pasted element in sight. From a giant cat with a monocle to the beautiful stags in the fungal forest. It’s a shame that most of them don’t really have any screen time outside of 2-3 friendly discussions before moving on to the next area.
- Boss Fights | It’s not that Ravenlok has any genius boss battles per se, but you’ll learn to appreciate them as these provide the only kind of challenge in the game. Suddenly you’ll have to dodge a few times or even use a potion to stay alive and I needed these encounters to stay awake.
- Easy Achievements | There are 50 achievements in Ravenlok and it feels like there is one popping every 5 minutes across its 4-5 hour runtime. Nothing too challenging, but a fun little rabbit hunt makes it an enjoyable completion.
- Cosmetic unlocks | It’s not a big deal, but you’ll unlock a few hats throughout the game and I always appreciate small touches like that. I went with the flower crown for most of it, as you can see in the screenshot below.
- Boring Combat | There is no animation timing on the default swing of your sword. This means that you can spam the attack button as quick as you can, and it will outdamage any spell or special attack you unlock later on in the game. non-boss enemies even get stunlocked by it and that means the game is a cakewalk. Add to this that you can use as many potions or bombs as you wish (as long as you buy plenty) and that the game pauzes as you use them, and the game becomes about as challenging as slicing a hot knife through soft butter.
- Leveling Up | For some weird reason, you can only level up by trading another type of currency at one specific location in the game. I don’t see why this couldn’t just use experience points and let you level up as you defeat enemies. This made it a slog to always travel through the mirrors back to the witch’s cabin, something a few people might even overlook altogether, giving themselves a hard time for no reason at all.
- Semi-fixed camera | There is a camera that seems fixed, but you can tilt it in all four directions slightly. And you’ll even have to use it a few time to read a dialog pop-up when talking to an NPC.
- Music & sound | The background music does a good job at setting the mood, but there wasn’t any particular track that I found memorable. There is no voice acting, but that’s OK. One thing of notice: I really liked the sound effect of the sword swing, and that’s a good thing too because you’ll be hearing it a lot!
- Story | The queen went mad and you need to fight her and her minions to restore balance to the world. That’s pretty much what the story boils down to and it’s never really explained how or why you got sucked into the mirror, what role your grandmother played in all of this (only mentioned in the first 5 minutes?) and why Ravenlok just goes “OK.” and accepts that new world as nothing really noteworthy.
- Puzzles are easy | Can you take notes? Good, then you can easily solve every puzzle in the game. They all boil down to “look around the environment for clues, write them down and input the proper order”. I don’t mind the occasional easy game, but Ravenlok offers no challenge at all.
What we Disliked
- Hard to get around | There are To-Do lists shown in the top left corner, and you can consult them from the pauze menu, but if you don’t know where a specific character is hanging out, you’re going to have a hard time. I spent 5 hours beating Ravenlok 100%, but maybe half an hour of it was spent looking for the little mouse chef that blends into the environment. It’s a pretty linear game with the kind of trade quest you’d expect from an early Zelda title, but it was just frustrating not having any kind of hint at where to find the quest-givers. Blame this one on me getting lazy and pampered though, we didn’t have those in-game kind of guides or waypoints back in the day either. But games do evolve for a reason.
- Positioning bugs | It’s a minor gripe, but sometimes Ravenlok would face the wrong direction when trying to interact with an object or an NPC. Take this early scene at the very start where you can pet your dog, Waffles, I had to cut out a few scenes where he started a non-stop walking animation into a corner or where she would face the other side and pet the thin air instead of her cute dog.
- No closure | Speaking of which, when the game ends, you’ll just see Ravenlok fly home, riding a big crane bird, but you’ll never see her make it there or see her dog again. It felt like there was a scene missing at the very end there where she reunited with her family, perhaps even a tease of a sequel?
How long to beat the story | 4 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 5 hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Oceanhorn, Wavetale, Lost in Random
If you prefer to watch Ravenlok’s gameplay in action, we’ve got you covered!
Ravenlok’s aesthetic design is truly impressive and makes it one of the prettiest games I’ve played this year.
Sadly, the lack of challenge left me feeling like I fell down the rabbit hole of boredom. Although “Alice in Voxelland” may not be the thrilling adventure I was hoping for, it still gets a pass for its magical characters and breathtaking environments alone.
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Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.