As a kid who grew up with the ZX Spectrum +3 as my main computer for nearly a decade, I have a special place for retro games that take my back there. I also want some of the quality of life improvements of today’s gaming world though. Ravva and the Cyclops absolutely nails the 80’s aesthetic and it offers some interesting gameplay twists. Sadly, they aren’t quite so balanced.
The idea is that Ravva is a wizard who traverses across 2D side scrolling levels to reach a portal to continue onward to break a curse. Our furry mage has five different abilities that are supposedly from four different monsters. Really they are different projectiles that do different things. Blue can freeze enemies and blocks. Red can shoot upwards at 45 degrees (very useful in a game where most levels are broken into two lanes). Green is a bomb that breaks green blocks and whilst it doesn’t shoot far, its very powerful. Yellow is an odd circular sphere monster that doesn’t attack but reveals secret pickups, coins or breakable walls. The idea is you are meant to spam it constantly and it gets very old, very fast. After level two, I’d ditched it. Your main attack can be upgraded by collecting a powerup, turning it into a stronger rainbow shot.
Ravva isn’t hugely dexterous but the levels are very linear and often revolve around breaking green blocks, to make a platform reachable and then clear the enemies before progressing. Enemies often spawn from portals that spew enemies out until you hit the portal enough times it closes again. However, if you just leave and move on eventually enemies just stop coming. If you stop the portals early, the game seems to send in annoying flying enemies to trouble you instead and these were easily the most tricky enemies to kill. Ravva, by design, is a blocky game. It doesn’t deal with things not being easily on a certain block plain well and that means flying enemies are tricky to hit and miss. In the end I just tried to jump over them.
Whilst the graphics took me back in time to the SNES era, so did the simplistic and rigid gameplay. I’m not sure if that was a good thing, largely because the levels rarely step out of a very basic jump, attack, dodge formula. At least the bosses have simple move patterns and were easy enough to predict, breaking up the gameplay somewhat. Ravva is a one hit death character but new lives are quite easy to pick up as coins are everywhere to collect – more so if you use the yellow monster. The game is also very short, has only one song, a scoring system that is never really recognised in the game and an arbitrary timer that means you can’t enjoy going at your own pace. The problem is that the timer should then link to your score to make speedruns worthwhile but you’d have to do it all manually as I found the previous scores didn’t hold in the game.
I feel like Ravva and the Cyclops Curse was made with a lot of love for the era but whilst trying to do something different, it manages to be more incoherent. There’s a nice, basic throwback game here for those that love yesteryear hidden beneath some odd design decisions and a limited gameplay loop that doesn’t change across the game. I don’t call having a couple of moving blocks to avoid on the last world great game progression. It just feels too safe in the wrong areas.
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