The third and final entry of Cococucumber’s “Voxel Trilogy,” Ravenlok is a brief, whimsical action-adventure romp one could glide through in well under 10 hours. It’s a gorgeous showcase of what can be done with Voxels as a visual tool, both in terms of fidelity and artistic depth. Its linear, hack and slash style is a bit on the shallow side beyond that, which feels like a side effect of an assumed target audience. Adults looking for a new Zelda alternative would be barking up the wrong tree here, but as an entry point for younger gamers Ravenlok has a lot of potential.
A small adventure for small gamers
Ravenlok’s story is simple and not shy about wielding its influences like a hammer. You play as a little girl forced to move from the city to a rural plot with her parents. Leaving friends and civilization behind is no fun, and after helping with some move-in tasks you’re left to your own devices. Naturally, that’s the perfect time for a strange mirror to send you into an alternate world full of magic, monsters and collectibles. Mushrooms and rabbits are everywhere, there’s an evil queen, yadda yadda yadda.
Fetching and fighting
Two pillars hold up Ravenlok through its brisk, six to eight-hour runtime. There’s a series of what jaded adults will call “fetch quests” governing progress, and some light hack and slash-style combat breaking up the exploration. Some puzzles appear every now and then that demand slightly more brain power, but again I must stress the target audience is almost assuredly actual children. I could see my 10 year-old kid having a blast with Ravenlok, especially since games like Breath of the Wild (and certainly the upcoming Tears of the Kingdom) are far too dense.
For me, far too old and jaded for the mission at hand, I still got a lot out of Ravenlok. For one, it’s simply refreshing for a game to get in, do its thing and get out. There’s not a lot of intricate storytelling, but having a cute, little adventure that doesn’t ask too many questions has a time and a place. And those are both right here! I got a kick out of taking in the sights and sounds as I ran around bonking things with my extremely uncomplicated sword attacks. If this was a longer game demanding more of my attention there’d be some bigger problems, but the pace felt good.
Unfortunately this is also the kind of game that couldn’t figure out exactly what it wanted from combat at times, with boss encounters having an almost Soulslike vibe to them. The creature designs are cool, such as a Hydra floating around in a giant teacup and sporting comically buff arms on each of its necks. But the camera rests at a bizarre midpoint between fixed and controllable, giving you a limited angle of movement. Of course, bosses often rush right through that range, making keeping tabs on them literally impossible at times. It’s an odd choice that really exposes how simple and limited Ravenlok’s swordplay is. Most of the time you can get away with mashing the attack button, and using special moves only if you feel like it.
Catching whimsical vibes
While the gameplay overall does feel shallow and repetitive, that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments that stand out. Ravenlok has cute ideas, such as a dedicated dance button you have to use to collect certain items. Does it really accomplish anything? No not really, but it’s a fun bit that helps bring the intended vibe to life. Some of the puzzles actually ask you to pay attention to the environment as well, and not just in a “pixel hunting” kind of way. It helps you slow down and appreciate the impressive details you may have ran past otherwise.
If you have kids interested in things like fantasy storytelling and adventure games, but titles like the recent Legend of Zelda feel like too much for them, Ravenlok is an easy suggestion. And if you’re just looking for something breezy that’s visually enticing but not much of an investment otherwise, you can do a lot worse than this. It may be a little monotonous and unambitious, but the adventure is over well before it can overstay its welcome. Ravenlok feels like a nice piece of fluff that’s polished and genre-heavy enough to be fun, but won’t address any cravings for the next big game in your stack.
This review is based on an Xbox key provided by Cococucumber. Ravenlok is available now for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via the Windows Store and the Epic Games Store.