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Randall – PAX East 2016 Hands-On Preview

Randall is a 2D metroidvania-style action platformer developed by Mexico based indie studio, We The Force. You (unsurprisingly) play as Randall, a badass (and mildly schizophrenic) anti-hero taking on a corporation responsible for brainwashing everyone in a future dystopia. Unlike the majority of 2D metroidvanias currently flooding the indie game scene, you do not level up, or gain additional powers to unlock new areas. Instead, you make your enemies do that for you.

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In addition to Randall‘s basic parkour abilities and melee attacks, he defeats foes by putting his mind to it, literally. After performing a kind of telekinetic “stun” attack, you can leap onto enemies, “Yoshi” style, and make them do your bidding. During my demo, which was created specifically for PAX East, I was able to control three different enemies, each of which served a specific purpose. The first was a sort of hulking guard, which could be defeated through regular melee attacks. However, it was much more fun mind-controlling him in order to use his heavy ranged attacks on his fellow guards. I also later encountered a flying enemy, which was useful when traversing large gaps, and a spider-like mech that I used to dig underground in order to avoid booby traps. After you’re finished toying with your enemies, you can press a button to use them one final time, as a way to slingshot yourself in any direction, a useful trick for walking enemies into imminent death while escaping yourself, unscathed.

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(Randall, We The Force)

Putting enemies to work is a cool new dynamic in the heavily saturated world of metroidvanias, but it did feel somewhat limited. You are only able to control one enemy at a time and you must ride them while controlling them, instead of controlling them remotely. Although not nearly as demanding, Randall does attempt a sort of Super Meat Boy approach to defeating areas, allowing immediate (and infinite) respawns at checkpoints after dying (which does happen often). Unfortunately, the controls felt a bit cumbersome and not as tight as they should be, leaving me struggling to perform a “dash” jump that awkwardly required at three-button input.

It should be noted however that the build I played was not representative of the final version, which should be arriving on Steam (where it’s already been Greenlit) and PlayStation 4. With a price point mostly likely somewhere between $12 and $15 and a length between 5 to 6 hours, I’m very much looking forward to the final, polished version of of the game when it launches simultaneously on both platforms later this year.

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