T Raiders Review: Unique platformer with less than precise controls
There’s something to be said for weirdness. T Raiders is nothing if not weird. It isn’t the circus sounds or even the quirky cartoon characters; it’s the way everything fits together. Touchmine was the company behind the superb Devil Invasion, a frantic and unexpectedly rich hybrid of match-3 and role-playing games that starred squishy little cartoons as the invading devils. T Raiders, a run-and-jump platformer, follows suit. It’s packed with strange characters and mechanics that produce a distinctly alien vibe. But it’s also a bit less amusing than its forebear.
The game has 36 different levels. Each one has three keys that you must obtain in order to open the glowing gold door to the next level, and is also filled with gold coins that will add to your final tally. You pick one of three different gold-digging teddy bears wearing mittens (that’s right), each rated by Health, Speed, and “Lucky.” The first two are self-explanatory; the third is fairly unclear. Occasionally, as you jump and collect coins, you’ll see the word “Lucky” flash on-screen. But your guess as to what this means is as good as mine.
Once you begin raiding the levels for gold, you get what else is wrong with this picture. The levels themselves are little mazes comprised of what looks like cereal, overlaid on backdrops like a spooky forest and a dark tomb. And these mazes point in every direction: not just left and right, but up and down and at various angles in between. The reason is that your characters have the power to flip the orientation of the level as they are jumping, turning the wall into the floor, the hole in the ceiling into a door to the next room, and so on.
This gets even more complicated with the addition of moving platforms and hazards like spiky traps. And unlike in traditional platformers, if you fall too far, your character will die. To add insult to injury, your health bar will constantly deplete until it reaches and stays at zero, which means you’ll be left highly vulnerable if you just take your time.
There are also portals in the levels that potentially send you flying into an infinite loop, if you jump into them the wrong way; and sometimes a ghostly shadow of your own character that chases you around the level. In other words, T Raiders steals key mechanics from avant-garde platformers such as And Yet It Moves, Portal, and Braid. But whereas the levels in those games were tightly built around their unique mechanics, T Raiders throws them together in a jumble and lets you flip and bounce your way through its levels of cereal at your own risk. It often works better than you’d expect.
At best, the game’s loose level design and unusual combination of mechanics means you can approach the same level many different ways. Want to grab that last key by smartly rotating the level so that you can walk right up and snatch it? You can. Or you can also take a risk and toss your character into a freefall, hoping to grab the key and hit the newly opened exit before you die. The choice is yours, and the game often encourages you to improvise. Your character can float for a short period of time, as well as perform wall jumps. You’d be nearly omnipotent if not for the fact that the levels are full of tricky corners and fatal drops.
In fact, it’s possible to become stuck in their many crevices. Just try rotating the level and standing on the side of a moving platform. It’ll crunch you into the wall, and you’ll be squished inside a hard place. But things like this are to be expected with such a loose and flexible system.
As interesting as it is, T Raiders is ultimately held back by quite unexciting problems. It’s almost impossible to control the characters with precision. They frequently rotate the level in the opposite direction you intend (for best results, hold the jump button and swipe upwards with either a right or left tilt), they’ll eagerly wall jump off the slightest corner of a platform, and they generally stick to surfaces a little too easily.
Let them stand in place and you’ll see that their legs never stop moving. This is a good metaphor for the game in general. In one sense, it looks and feels kind of crappy, like a bunch of unrelated things thrown together into a room. In another sense, it just asks you to keep moving, with whatever method and in whichever orientation you prefer. When you do get into a groove, it’s a curiously addictive game.
Some of the creatures from Devil Invasion return here as critters you can jump on. But there’s little overlap between the two games. While Devil Invasion was valuable for making match-3 into an intense hardcore game, T Raiders is a little harder to recommend to everyone. It’s also a game that will challenge you in unexpected ways—but platformers are already known for being difficult, and this one feels a lot more haphazard and subject to luck than you’ve come to expect. That’s the game’s strong point as well as its weak point. In other words, what looks like up could quickly turn into down, down, down.