RKGK/Rakugaki Review – Let’s Paint the Town

RKGK/Rakugaki Review

I’m a fan of portentous (or pretentious, take your pick) action games with rich and challenging combat. But you know, every once in a while it’s great to cleanse the palate with something light, colorful, and simple. I think there’s a word for that: fun. RKGK/Rakugaki fits the bill. It’s fast, fluid, and comes at the player in bite-sized bits. It’s a perfect game to spend a few minutes with or get lost in for much longer.

Tag the World

RKGK has a story, or at least a premise. It takes place in a future-ish, dystopian metropolis of megalithic corporations called Cap City. One of them, B Corp, is run by the evil Mr. Buff, who has made it his mission to destroy personal expression. You play as Valah, a young graffiti artist. Together with the help of her fellow Rakugaki (the word means quick sketch or doodle in Japanese), Valah glides around Cap City, bringing the drab walls and giant screens alive with colorful graffiti. Naturally, her end goal is to defeat the villainous Mr. Buff and restore vibrant expression in Cap City. It’s an understatement to suggest that RKGK isn’t probably going to win awards for writing or dialogue, but it moves things along.

The developers have said that RKGK has a number of inspirations, including classic Japanese 3D platformers, anime, and the vibrant expression of Latin American graffiti artists. It’s quite a lively combination, and it shines through in the game itself.

RKGK’s narrative and action are told through six chapters, each one split into a sequence of repeatable, relatively short levels. Between each level, Valah returns to her hideout headquarters, where the other Rakugaki are waiting. While back at base, Valah can buy new outfits, check her stats, and interact with her friends. It’s all video game 101 stuff, absolutely nothing groundbreaking. That’s all fine by me. However, RKGK is primarily interested in action and platforming.

Jump, Slide, and Glide

Mechanically, RKGK is a pure action platformer, and its mechanics stick pretty close to the genre staples. Valah has a repertoire of jumps, double jumps, powered-up glides, and greased-up slides. Starting simply, the levels grow into an increasingly challenging collection of platforming moves that require planning and precision. Generally, movement is tuned well and hits the mark between forgiving and impossible. There are moments, however, when the game’s camera plays havoc with the player’s good intentions. This most often happens in tight, vertical spaces, making a series of wall jumps more frustrating than fun.

Now and then, Valah glides on rail segments. These are a fun change of pace. Obviously, there’s combat, too, both during levels and against chapter-ending bosses. Combat is another area where the game falters a little. Most of the normal little robot enemies are trivial. On the other hand, the bosses are more challenging but often repetitive fights.

As Valah moves through the world she picks up coins, spray paint cans, and health regens. Her goal, aside from survival, is to tag a number of large and small video screens with explosively colorful graffiti. Speed, pickups, deaths, and hitting all the targets result in an end-of-level grade. However, just finishing one level is enough to unlock the next. Levels can be repeated for a higher score and additional loot.

Joyful and Artistic

Aside from the well-tuned platforming, the absolute highlight of RKGK is the colorful world Valah creates with her graffiti. It’s beautiful, elaborate, and often full of animations and depth. Velah leaves a rainbow trail of paint wherever she goes. It’s both a way to keep track of where she’s been in a level and a way to transform the city from drab to fab. I wouldn’t go so far as to call RKGK a metaphor for the saving power of art in an autocratic world, but maybe it is.

The game’s music is cheerfully electronic and EDM-flavored as befits the game’s future setting. It ranges from tuneful and catchy to innocuous to annoying. There were just a few moments where it began to grate during repeated platforming attempts.

I wouldn’t call RKGK mindless fun, because its mechanics and level design have depth and reward multiple playthroughs. But it does harken back to classic action platformers where the focus is on entertainment, the bad guys are cartoons and the stakes are no higher than the next jump. As long as it’s done well, that’s sometimes enough.

***PC code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Fun and fluid action
  • Fast platforming
  • Lots of replay value
  • Colorful and artistic

The Bad

  • Story and dialogue aren’t great
  • Music can get repetitive
  • Camera can get in the way