As game development tools become more accessible, and the bar to entry becomes lower, it becomes possible for anyone to make a game. Even average individuals can aspire to build and release their one-man projects on Nintendo consoles and players can expect results on par with the major developers.
The future of the game industry isn’t brewing in a glass-and-chrome Xanadu, it’s percolating in bedrooms and basements, fueled by cheap PC stations and the fevered dreams of basement bards. These are the sons of Banjo-Kazooie, reared on a diet of low-poly graphics and collect-a-thons. They speak the language of jiggies and warp pipes, their thumbs twitching with the muscle memory of Mario’s reverse long jump.
Diego Ras is an aspiring game designer with a passion for 3D platformers from the fifth generation. His solo project takes notes from the Nintendo 64 era of Rareware mascot 3D platformers but also incorporates linear gameplay elements from the Super Mario 3D World style of games. What can gamers expect from his magnum opus? Find out in this Raccoo Venture review!
Developer: Diego Ras
Publisher: Diego Ras, QUByte Interactive
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: December 13, 2023
Price: $14.99 USD
Diego Ras did his homework when it came to evoking the look and feel of fifth-gen era 3D platformers. The plot, if you can call it that, is about as substantial as a cobweb in a haunted house. The villain is ripped straight from the bargain bin of cartoon villainy and has scattered the chess pieces across the land like confetti at a taxidermist convention.
Raccoo has the unenviable task of clawing his way through sunshine-drenched meadows and steamy factories, scooping up black and white tiles and chess pieces like a sugar-crazed squirrel on a Twinkie bender. The world is sprawled out like the splatter of Lisa Frank’s puke; a patchwork of levels accessed from a hub that looked like a rejected set design from Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
Each stage is a playground of moving platforms and bottomless pits, hiding checkered tiles, and a chess piece, like some demented Easter egg hunt orchestrated by a Tasmanian demon on a minge binge. Collect enough, and new levels would unlock, popping open like trapdoors, dropping players deeper into Ras’ creation.
Between levels, Racoo can chill at home, swapping costumes like Liberace and indulging in mini-games that were about as deep as a kiddie pool, but just as addictive as a bag of Skittles. It’s a throwback to a simpler time with simple polygons and simple gameplay.
Yet, Raccoo Venture manages to be far more difficult and frustrating than anything before it, and much of this stems from some bizarre design choices. Raccoo seemingly controls well at first glance, but he’s limited compared to the likes of Banjo or Mario. Unlike those games, Raccoo never learns new moves or gains power-ups – he’s basic from the start and stays that way until the very end.
This in itself wouldn’t be the worst scenario. The horror truly washes over you when you realize that Raccoo’s only modes of defense are a very finicky throwing mechanic and his butt-stomp. Sadly, Raccoo can’t simply hop-and-bop threats; the butt-slam is his only recourse against non-spiky enemies, and it has a very tight area of effect, so don’t expect to flatten multiple furries at once.
Maybe you have a high tolerance for extremely limited methods of attack. Even if Raccoo had some kind of spin attack or could clobber boys with a cane or club; there is still the issue with the obnoxious aiming mechanics when throwing explosive mushrooms. There is no targeting system and players will have to rely on their intuition when lobbing throwables.
Since the perspectives are fixed camera angles which happen to be pretty far away from the player character, it can be extremely taxing to land a shot when throwing anything. Compounded with slow-throwing animation and physics, this becomes a nightmare when battling enemies who can only be defeated by exploding throwables which can lead to unfair damage.
The frustrating throwing mechanics come to a head when participating in the break-the-targets mini-game. Raccoo is given ample time and a lot of balls to throw, but expect to miss most shots because of the lack of guidance or targeting reticle.
There was a huge missed opportunity to map aiming to the right analog stick since it is completely unused. This would have rectified all the confusion with targeting and would have removed having to position Raccoo from the equation entirely, making a much smoother experience.
Playing Raccoo Venture is a baptism by weirdness, a jarring shift from the usual platforming fare. The levels, like Super Mario 3D World‘s, stretch out in linear paths but don’t expect Raccoo to speed-run through them like a pro. He’s more of a dainty tanuki with a big weighty sack, each jump is a risky tango with gravity.
The stages are crammed with more gimmicks than a carnival barker’s pockets, hidden switches that bend reality like Silly Putty, and puzzles as esoteric as a stoner’s philosophy lecture. Later stages keep the collectibles so well-hidden that most kids would never find them. Raccoo Venture may appeal to kids, but it plays like it was made for pros.
Though the fixed camera angles can create picturesque visuals, they also render collectibles and switches frustratingly obscure. This is especially true during sequences where you control the pigeon sidekick. Parsing the pigeon’s position in space with the fixed angle becomes a tricky dance, demanding laser focus on its drop shadow to the exclusion of all else.
If there is one thing that Raccoo Venture excels in, it is unlockable costumes and secrets. There are a lot of them and several forgo the whole cartoon raccoon design entirely. Once you unlock the skeleton mariachi skin, why on earth would anyone want to use any other costume? Probably the only reason why anyone would switch from such a cool design would be to dress up as Alex DeLarge from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
The wide range of costumes and skins breathes a lot of life into Raccoo Venture. At its core, it is merely an okay 3D platformer, but being a 3D mascot platformer while dressed up as a protagonist from an X-rated movie makes it very appealing.
Raccoo Venture‘s heart beats in the right place, a testament to the singular vision of its one-man creator. While the visuals shine with exceptional polish for a solo effort, the gameplay stumbles, proving too frustrating for young players and too limited to captivate seasoned platformer veterans.
The lure of hidden collectibles and environmental puzzles flickers brightly, but it’s often overshadowed by sloppy battles and an obnoxious aiming system that feels like a festering wart on an otherwise charming experience. Despite its flaws, Raccoo Venture is brimming with soul. Densely packed with things Diego Ras loves, playing it feels like getting to know him on a personal level.
Raccoo Venture was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by QUByte Interactive. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Raccoo Venture is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.