Ravva and the Cyclops Curse is an extremely typical eastasiasoft platformer. It’s bitesize and cheap, and what it lacks in longevity it makes up for in charm.
That charm’s evident from the start. You’re welcomed with a cutscene that tells the tale of a summoner who takes on the Cyclops King. She’s not wholly successful as her familiars get yoinked by the King, and she’s turned to stone. That’s when Ravva (you) arrive, the child of the summoner, and you vow to become a mighty beastmaster yourself, so that you can defeat the Cyclops King and remove the stone’s curse.
There’s a polished, 1980s kids’ animation look to it all, and the characters – particularly the mournful little owl, Ravva – are great. They could have wandered out of a Disney animation and we wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Weirdly, the ingame character looks nothing like an owl – it would have been preferable to see the cutscene owl carry over.
Unfortunately there’s no training montage for Ravva. You’re straight into the fray, starting the game as a trainee summoner with four different familiars and you’re on the King’s case.
Ravva has a gimmick or two, but at its heart it’s a simple 2D platformer. These are discrete little levels, no bigger than the ones you’d find in the first Super Mario Bros, and your aim is to reach the crystal that floats at the end of it all. In between are platforms, chasms and destructible blocks, and they’re all arranged reasonably well, if not imaginatively. There’s nothing here that first-generation platformers would have been surprised by, let alone players who have grown up with Limbo, Braid, Fez and the rest.
Originality comes from the weapon-beasts that you summon (although, ‘originality’ might be stretching it a bit). You get four of them: a red creature that fires diagonally upwards, a green creature that lobs something like mortars, a blue creature which freezes enemies and blocks, and a yellow creature that does a ‘ping’ that reveals hidden secrets. You can switch between them with the triggers, so they’re only a few taps away max.
We put ‘originality’ in inverted commas because, strip away their presentation as monsters, and really these are just different attacks. It’s roughly the arsenal of a Megaman or Samus. But the creatures are a fun way of presenting it, so we don’t mind all that much.
These beasts weren’t created equally, as some are plain naff. The red creature who fires diagonally is only really useful for shooting secret blocks high in the air, and for defeating the end boss. It can take down enemies with higher ground, but there’s no single enemy that can attack you from that position. So you may as well leave them be. The blue ‘ice’ creature is similarly rubbish, as it only freezes enemies. Very few opponents pose enough of a threat that you’ll want to pause them first, so it goes into the bin too.
What you’re left with is an amazing, totally overpowered green beast that’s only good at short range, but short range is where you’re mostly fighting. We occasionally switched to a basic fireball that’s not attached to any creature for long-range targets, but that’s it: Ravva devolves into a two-attack system, and that’s not quite enough to hold the attention.
The switching between weapons is also part of the problem. Things can happen quickly, and muddling through your weapons to find the right one is clumsy. It gets easier and more like muscle memory as you go on, but it’s enough of a reason to stick with the weapon you have, rather than move to another.
This is particularly damaging to the ‘ping’ beast, who does a small radar scan of the immediate area for secret blocks, power ups and extra lives. But the ping is so stunted, barely an inch in diameter around you, that you have to be spamming it most of the time. There’s plenty of surprises to be found, so it is worth it, but constantly cycling from weapon to radar and tapping it relentlessly grew tiresome. Once we got the achievements connected to secrets we stopped bothering unless it was 100% essential. We couldn’t help but imagine a ping that covered the whole screen, so that it wasn’t so needy and high maintenance.
But while these are criticisms, Ravva and the Cyclops Curse is actually a sturdy little platformer. So many eastasiasoft and Ratalaika minis have slide jumping or splashy combat, and Ravva has neither. It’s got game, and the levels are designed well enough to take advantage.
If only there were more of them. Even knowing eastasiasoft, and acknowledging the £4.19 price, this is over in two flicks of an owl’s tail. There are ten levels, and two of them are boss levels with no foreplay – they just jump straight into the action. That leaves eight levels, no longer than five-to-ten minutes each. Only two of them include any challenge, so Ravva will be over in less than an hour.
We wouldn’t normally bemoan the length, but Ravva left us wanting more. We’d barely been introduced to some of the enemies, and we were just getting used to the weapon-switching, before it was over with a slightly disappointing cutscene. We immediately checked to see if we’d missed anything – a New Game Plus or similar – but there was nowt. It’s rare for a game to leave us wanting more, but it’s more because it felt cut short, rather than it blowing us away.
A note on the difficulty settings, as Ravva comes with a ‘Kids Mode’, which gives you infinite lives. Ravva has a spiky difficulty – we found the end boss genuinely impossible outside of Kids Mode – so the many difficulty settings are valuable. The platforming is relatively simple, so it is absolutely accessible to kids with this flicked on.
Overall, we’re not going to be running around screaming about Ravva and the Cyclops Curse. It’s distinguishing feature, a series of beasts you can summon, are nothing more than four different attacks, and you’ll only use a couple of them. But what’s left is sturdy enough, somewhere between Mario and Megaman. This owl-based platformer won’t turn any heads, but it’s a minor hoot while it lasts.
You can buy Ravva and the Cyclops Curse for £4.19 from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S