Rage Among The Stars (2020)
Developer: Matthew Genther
Disclaimer: I received this game for free from the developer.
Happy Monday! Yes, I'm pretty late on this review. I started playing this game late last week and really wanted to review it for this time, but I also wanted to give myself more time to play it. I had the developer reach out to me a while back, but this game is still a fairly new as it was released about 2 months ago. Rage Among The Stars is a challenging, retro-style platformer about a little skeleton who crash-landed in a strange and hostile planet. Although scrappy in terms of story and art, it's a pure and well-crafted platformer that really motivates you to keep going, again and again, through the challenge.
When I received this game, I warned the developer and I'm letting you guys know as well: I'm historically not very good at platformers. My friend gifted me Super Meat Boy some years back and I only played it for about 30 minutes before losing patience. I've never actually beat any of the 2D Super Mario games I've played. However, I've been playing Celeste recently and really liking it, so I feel like that has helped me gain some patience for this type of game. I took a break from Celeste to play Rage Among the Stars, and I felt a similar sense of challenge without the intense frustration. Rage Among The Stars does something very important for a challenging platformer: it lets you start over immediately, with almost no time wasted, and lets you get moving right away. This made me able to keep trying despite the challenge and not lose my wits or you know, throw my controller. I was pretty hooked on this game and found it hard to stop even when I was on a stage where I had accumulated 200+ deaths.
Rage Among The Stars actually features an "Easy Mode" you can choose to turn on or off at any point. I find this really worthwhile and appreciate the way it was implemented. I went through most of the game not using it, except when I finally hit a level that just didn't seem possible to me. There must be something I'm missing, but there's a level where the portal I had to reach seemed basically impossible, no matter how many times I tried. I turned easy mode on and was able to finally complete it. The nice thing is, I was able to turn off easy mode afterwards and continue with the same level of difficulty. I should note, even with easy mode turned on, the game isn't particularly "easy". A select number of obstacles are removed from the stage, but it remains mostly the same. Usually it's enough to make it beatable, however, it's possible that the exact obstacle that was causing you all the trouble is actually still there. It's still well-done, though, because it'll at least make the other parts of the stage quicker to get through. In the beginning, a couple of longer levels features checkpoints which I definitely appreciated. However, in the later levels, even longer ones, there were no more checkpoints. I start to get frustrated when I have to re-do a significant portion of a level, so I do think some of these could have benefited from checkpoints without necessarily losing difficulty.
The music in Rage Among The Stars throughout is actually quite fun, generally it gets you hyped up and doesn't get annoying or repetitive. I enjoyed the music during boss battles, as it would amp me up and raise the feeling of intensity. I generally really like pixel-art games, however, this game would have been greatly improved by a little more consistency within its art style.The backgrounds and obstacles would sometimes be in different pixel styles or ratios than one another, looking like they didn't go well together. The character and boss art wasn't always as polished as the background art, so it felt like it clashed somewhat. The obstacle spikes were drawn with thick outlines in a way where it wasn't always completely clear how close you could get without hitting them. Otherwise, the art doesn't really affect the gameplay too much.
Rage Among The Stars starts with a cutscene that sets up the setting and situation, but there's not too much story after that point. I think that's fine in this type of game, however, the dialogue had a type of humor that didn't really do much for me. It makes sense, though, as this was made with a retro-style of platformer, with that type of teenage silliness in mind. It could've been just a little more enjoyable with some better grammar and a little more story-related dialogue. I also thought it was unintuitive to make the "down" arrow the talk button and not be given instructions about it. It wasn't automatic and I would keep forgetting every time. Another annoying little quirk was just the way the level select menu worked. You can only move sideways, so if you needed to get to a level at the very bottom, it would take way too long for no real reason. I had to use this function a lot as I would leave the game and come back to the level I had left off on. There were small technical details such as these that could improve playability perhaps through patching.
Rage Among The Stars does the challenging platformer thing totally right, in my opinion. It's not unnecessarily rage-inducing (most of the time), it constantly presents you with new types of challenges, and it even has some pretty cool boss fights without giving the protagonist any kind of attack moves. If you're a fan of Celeste, Super Meat Boy, or any of those type of platformers, you'll definitely enjoy this. It's not too out of reach for beginners, either, especially if you use the easy mode when it's comfortable for you. I didn't finish the game yet because after beating the second boss, I was exhausted. However, I'll continue later on, as I genuinely feel like this game made me get a little better at platformers and helped me gain some patience.
Rage Among The Stars is available on PC.
Played on: PC
Last Played: 5/3/2020
Playtime: 3 hrs