[Review] Raji: An Ancient Epic – Nintendo Switch

Written by Joachim Ziebs
  • Developer: Nodding Heads Games
  • Publisher: Super.com
  • Release Date: 18/08/2020
  • Price: £22.49 / $24.99
  • Review code provided by Super.com
  • Version reviewed: 1.0.1

Introducing: Raji Switch Review

I must admit that Raji was the only game during the recent Indie World Showcase that made my jaw drop. The trailer was so beautifully done that I just couldn’t help it. A game made in India about Indian/Hindi mythology simply called out to me in a way I hadn’t known before.
So, after a reading a bit about the development studio behind the game and realising that Raji had been a failed Kickstarter before, I simply knew that I had to review this game for Nintendad. So, without much further ado, here is the review!

The game opens with gorgeously animated paper marionettes and shadow play. We learn that Raji and her brother Golu are circus performers set to perform during a Hindi festival. Alas, the festivities are raided by the Gadasura, Indian demons, who spirit away Golu. Raji, shocked that her brother has been taken away and that she was unable to defend him, summons all her courage and sets out to get her brother back.
You will direct her actions on this action-adventure with platforming and puzzles while the gods Durga and Vishnu constantly comment on the backstory of the events and on your prowess in battle.

I wander lonely as a cloud, only demons are around me!

The first thing you notice on your journey is the fact that you have no control of the camera. It gets adjusted by the game and will sometimes follow you, sometimes move next to you, and sometimes be on top of you. This looks awesome, especially with the detailed backgrounds referencing a lot of Indian art and lore, but makes precise jumps rather difficult to do. I’ve jumped right into the abyss more than once because I misjudged my surroundings. Luckily, the automatic save points are frequent and the levels are quickly reloaded.

Gameplay itself is very linear. You move into a new area, solve a puzzle, gain insight about your past or Hindi mythology as a result, defeat a lot of lesser demons, defeat the boss, and then move on to the next area. Rinse and repeat. All the while you sometimes see Golu being dragged away without any chance to reach him. Talk about a constant build up of urgency and tension.

To finish off the demons you basically have a weak and a strong attack with all of your weapons. Combine these with a clever usage of wall jumps, pole-turning and dodging and you’ll be victorious. However, choosing the right weapon for the right enemy is key in this game. Also, you start off with just one weapon: Trishul, a kind of pike. Persevere and the gods will give you further weapons. They will also offer you orbs with which you can unlock abilities on your weapons. There is a complete skill tree for you to persuse.

The fights are nice, but can be a tad unfair and tough when you’re set up against a horde of enemies quicker than you are . You’ll get cornered which means almost certain death. It’s important to note that there is no difficulty setting and that the save points are frequent. Die in a fight and be resurrected right before it again. And again and again and again until you “get gud!”

Overwhelming beauty!

Raji: An Ancient Epic is appropriately named: It’s a story about good and evil, love and hate, anger and violence. All of this is woven into a singular strand of mystic yarn. The artstyle of the game supports this perfectly. It’s colourful, vibrant, dark, and light. It’s all that you are supposed to associate with India and then some. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.

The accompanying music and voice acting are the icing on the cake. The music speaks of traditional instruments and varies between tender notes and upbeat fighting support. The voice acting is good, with the constant banter between the gods being a source of delight as are the infrequent outbursts of loss and anger of our protagonist.

Gods talk, humans suffer!

All’s well that ends well, you ask? Not quite, as there are some serious drawbacks in the game. First and foremost, I encountered some freezes during fights. The music and sound effects would go on, but the action would be frozen needing a restart of the game. Upon reloading I would find myself right at the beginning of the battle, but it was still annoying, especially as battles have more than one phase. A second annoyance was the tiny font used for the skill tree. It’s hard to read on the TV and nearly impossible to discern playing handheld.

Conclusion

Raji promises a lot and it delivers a lot. Unfortunately what it delivers is still below the expectations it had evoked in me. The game promises interesting graphics and fascinating mythology. And it delivers. Lamentably, it also promises interesting gameplay and this is the part that leaves you wanting.

PROS

  • Awesome graphics and music
  • Interesting mythology/lore
  • Tough fights, sometimes a bit unfair

CONS

  • Freezes during fights
  • Unresponsive controls
  • Tiny font in the skill tree

Verdict
Raji is a sublime showcase of artstyle and mythology. Sadly, it falls behind when it comes to gameplay.

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