HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewRavva and the Phantom Library Review

Ravva and the Phantom Library Review

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We wouldn’t rush to get a library card for the Phantom Library. It moves from location to location on a whim, and the books are capable of transporting a reader to different worlds. We can only imagine how much money the Phantom Library makes from late fees. 

It’s also very recently become evil, being possessed by ghosts and hoovering up any unfortunate soul who happens to be passing by. As if we needed another reason to avoid it. But Ravva doesn’t have the luxury of a choice: the little owl-wizard was passing by when they got sucked into the Phantom Library’s halls.

Ravva and the Phantom Library, you may not be aware, is a sequel. We personally reviewed the first game, Ravva and the Cyclops Curse, and were mostly underwhelmed. While it offered several attacks, represented by summoned creatures, we latched onto the one or two we liked and stuck with them. There wasn’t much of a game there either: we were done in a flick of a lamb’s tail, wishing there was more. We handed it a 3 out of 5 and promptly forgot about it.

ravva and the phantom library review 1
Ravva and the Phantom Library is the sequel you will want

Ravva and the Phantom Library is the kind of sequel that you always hope you get when you start reviewing a game. Across every criteria it is superior to the original, to the point that we’d encourage you to skip directly to this one. There’s a reason that there’s no ‘2’ or ‘II’ in the title: we’re guessing that the developers want you to start with this one too. 

Things don’t start auspiciously. While the opening story about the Phantom Library grabs the attention, and each level is chosen from a lovingly rendered library interface, we can’t help but feel that Ravva and the Phantom Library makes a mistake. It neglects to tutorialise itself, assuming – we guess – that the player knows what each of the five different attacks do. As someone who saw the end-credits of the first game, we couldn’t remember those attacks, though. It had been too long. And if we can’t remember them, as someone who played the first, then how is anyone else going to?

So there’s a bit of opening befuddlement. You’re tapping buttons to see what each of the five different weapons actually do. A quick rundown: there’s the basic bullet; a blue creature fires from above your head, clearing rainbow-coloured bricks; a red creature fires at a 45 degree angle above your head, hitting enemies that fly higher than you; a green creature drops bombs in a low arc, hitting things below you; and an orange beastie emits a radar pulse which can find secrets in an area. It’s possible to switch from one to the other in milliseconds with a tap of a button. 

In the opening game, we moaned about some of these weapons being better than others, to the point that some became irrelevant. That particular problem has been dealt with. You absolutely need to use every weapon, as blocks and enemies can’t be circumvented without them. Ravva and the Phantom Library develops the air of a puzzle game, as you work out which of the weapons suits the current scenario. How can I bypass a flying beastie? I can do a radar pulse, find a flying cloud-platform, and then get above it. Ravva and the Phantom Library is chock-full of these mini-puzzles. 

ravva and the phantom library review 3
Deffo a bit of a puzzler

A problem remains, as switching between weapons is still fiddly. Five weapons to cycle through is a lot, and Ravva and the Phantom Library loves to find moments where you need to do so at speed. Bats undulate across the screen, pushing you to navigate a screen against a time limit. Bosses need you to switch between moves if you want to do optimal damage. But it’s always awkward, never speedy, and we ended up wondering whether Ravva and the Phantom Library would have been better with fewer of these summons. 

But what elevates Ravva and the Phantom Library above its predecessor is how meaty it all feels. There’s just so much more substance here. Levels are no longer one and done in a couple of minutes. They’re labyrinths, demanding fifteen minutes or so to complete and air-dropping a boss in at the end. The levels are big enough that checkpoints are suddenly necessary. We’d argue that Ravva and the Phantom Library could have done with more of them. Each level only comes with two, and we’d have doubled the number. 

Ravva and the Phantom Library is hugely generous with how it lets you engage with the levels. You can do them in any order, choosing from volumes on the Phantom Library’s bookshelves. They roughly increase in difficulty according to the numbers on their spines, so there’s a recommended order, but you can mostly dabble according to your own whims. Better yet, each of the levels demands replay. There are a huge number of secret areas and invisible treasures in Ravva and the Phantom Library – suddenly, the radar-monster becomes more useful – and you can choose to engage with them or not. Whatever your choice, it’s satisfying to actually be given that choice. Ravva and the Cyclops Curse failed to find its depth. 

It’s still a little rough around the edges. So much of Ravva and the Phantom Library is spent destroying boxes to progress, and there’s only so many thrills to be had obliterating cubes. When you die, the vast majority of these boxes return, so you’re often clearing them repeatedly. We know why the emphasis is on such an odd thing, because different coloured boxes require you to change your weapon. It makes switching mandatory. But did it have to be so long-winded? 

ravva and the phantom library review 2
A significant step forward

Still, there’s been a progression to the general level design. Not only are they longer, but we felt like we were being tested a little more. A juggernaut-like beast was a constant headache, while the bat rooms rarely failed to take a heart pip from us. We liked the level of challenge of the bosses in particular. While they were slightly more spongey than we would have liked, they were puzzles waiting to be solved. Certain combinations of positioning and weapons made them beatable, but the conundrum was in finding those combinations. Ravva and the Phantom Library has developed a particular skill at creating these encounters. 

Which is to say that Ravva and the Phantom Library is a significant step forward from the first game. And if you haven’t played Ravva and the Cyclops Curse, then know that this is a puzzle-platformer with substance. It has its fiddly moments, but it’s also got a knack for creating dense, sprawling levels with a fun-to-figure-out boss at the end. Even if you have a backlog to work through, this tome is still worth checking out. 

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Effective SNES aesthetic
  • Large, intricate levels
  • Bosses are ace
Cons:
  • Weapon-switching stays fiddly to the end
  • Destroying blocks is only so fun
  • Lacks true longevity
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Eastasiasoft
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
  • Release date and price - 20 December 2023 | £8.39
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Effective SNES aesthetic</li> <li>Large, intricate levels</li> <li>Bosses are ace</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Weapon-switching stays fiddly to the end</li> <li>Destroying blocks is only so fun</li> <li>Lacks true longevity</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Eastasiasoft</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch <li>Release date and price - 20 December 2023 | £8.39</li> </ul>Ravva and the Phantom Library Review
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