RGJG is a difficult game to categorize because it does many and few things all at once. The best way to categorize RGJG is that it’s a pixel based platformer with shoot ’em up elements. I’d also go so far as to say that it’s similar to Super Meat Boy in the sense that it requires a high level of precision to advance through its levels. While there is a story in RGJG, it’s very minimal and told through second long cutscenes. For the most part, you play as a chain gun wielding character that’s only known for what you are, a scavenger. Throughout the game your main purpose is to advance through the levels and collect a precious resource known as atomiks. I’d like to be able to fully expand on the story that’s offered in this game, but I honestly didn’t attempt to delve into it, for me this game is purely about the gameplay.
One thing that’s almost immediately noticeable about RGJG is that its gameplay mechanics consist of two actions, shooting downwards which result in lifting you up and shooting to the left, which will destroy some of the many traps encountered in this game or move away obstacles. The main purpose of these two actions is to allow you to navigate through the many perilous environments encountered in this game. It may sound simple, but it’s difficult to execute. I’m not sure how it works with other controllers, but with the xbox 360 controller, all of what I previously described is performed with the use of the left and right bumpers. I was instantly reminded of One Finger Death Punch, another game that does a lot by appearing to be both graphically and mechanically limited.
It’s a pixel based game, but RGJG offers great visuals and a palette of bright neon colors. If I had to compare it to something else, I’d say it’s stylistically similar to Hotline Miami, and a lover of all RGB things will love this game. Much like the game itself notes this, it’s also worth mentioning that RGJG has a lot of bright flashing lights that constantly appear as a result of just about anything. This contributes to the overall trippy/psychedelic appearance of this game, at times it can be pretty intense.
In discussing the game’s overall visuals, its cutscenes are also noteworthy. Despite lasting very few seconds, RGJG’s cutscenes really stand out by having a very NES looking aesthetic, but they also differ by making use of animation. It’s through these cutscenes that the minimal story is told, but in general it’s a very specific experience. At times, the cutscenes will come off as confusing, jarring, and sometimes even misleading. All I know is that much like the overall game, the cutscenes offer a lot with very little.
Up to this point I’ve probably mentioned more than once the fact that this game does a lot with so little. The reason I mention this is because it’s not something I frequently encounter with modern games, at times it seems as if their motto is “more is more”, but RGJG solidifies that “less is more” still holds value. I previously mentioned the game’s limited mechanics, but despite consisting of only two controls, a lot can be done with them. From playing this game it’s easy to tell that a lot of thought went into its level design/mechanics and it manages to do an extraordinary number of things within its limits. As cheesy as it may sound, the only limits are within your mind. I say this because there’s no one specific way to navigate through the levels. The occasional glimpse at a YouTube clip of this game may showcase a successful way to get through an especially difficult level, but I also noticed that their way of navigating through a level wasn’t always the same as my way. To me, that’s the sign of good level design.
There are a few complaints that I will later expand upon, but the level design in this game is very good. The levels mainly consist of intricate twists and turns that will force you to utilize everything that you learn while playing this game. Level navigation mainly deals with you having to avoid being hit by spikes, laser beams, and many more traps. The main issue with these traps is that just one touch will result in an instant death. This will usually lead to you having to play through a level more than once and at its worst even hundreds of times. The levels are designed in such a manner that I was also reminded of Super Mario Maker, primarily because some levels come off as a chaotic mess that are constantly trying to make things difficult and kill you. Even though it comes off like this, RGJG is reasonable with its use of an instant/fast respawn system. This is useful because even if you die a lot in one particular level, there’s not much of a disconnect between your death and your new attempt, it’s almost instantaneous.
In continuing to discuss RGJG’s level design, I’d also like to say that at times it can come off as manipulative. I’m not sure if that was the creator’s intention, but it comes off that way to me. A bit of misdirection isn’t always a bad thing, in this case, I thought it was great. To be more specific, in some levels RGJG will make you feel comfortable/expectant, something that’s a welcome feeling because through most of the game you don’t know what to expect and this will feel like a brief moment of respite. You’ll feel at ease with what you’re navigating through, but suddenly and unexpectedly you’ll encounter a trap. An example of this was when I was going through a long free-falling tunnel that suddenly ended with spikes on the bottom. I expected it to eventually end, but the free-falling section was longer than usual so I didn’t expect it to suddenly end. I expected to be able to comfortably free-fall, but the level designer threw a curveball and I interpreted that to as a way to always keep you on your toes.
RGJG is organized into three main worlds with usually three to four sections and each section has around 10 to 20 levels. It may seem like a lot, but most of the levels can be easily beaten and it’s only towards the end that the length/difficulty of these levels begins to balance out. By that I mean that despite the level’s short length (some levels can literally be beaten in seconds), its difficulty will require many attempts to advance through the level so you’ll end up taking much longer than expected.
As I’ve mentioned already, there’s a great deal of variety when it comes to these main worlds and they’re generally all different from one another. Each world tends to have its own specific theme when it comes to appearance and the traps/”enemies” encountered in them. It’s worth noting that this game really knows how to mix the old with the new and it eases you into inevitably difficult situations. More specifically, you’re not suddenly forced to deal with new environmental traps, they’ll be introduced alongside traps you’ve previously encountered.
I previously praised the level design in this game, but I don’t think it’s perfect. Towards the end of the game there were a lot of levels that felt nearly impossible to beat and that made an initially balanced game feel imbalanced. Maybe it just happened to me, but some levels could be beaten through sheer dumb luck and it was really surprising. For example, there was a level where I thought I had died because I could no longer see the character, who was being blocked by the moving screen, but it turned out I was alive and quickly beat the level before I realized what was going on. For a game that can at times be severely punishing, this felt completely unexpected.
On that same note, some levels are difficult to the point where you’ll have to try and find patterns to ease your way through them. It may not fully make sense, but for me it involved memorization and knowing when to make a certain move or even how many times to make that move. An example of this would be learning the exact number of times and at what speed you’d have to tap one of the two buttons to be able to pass through an especially difficult obstacle.
From RGJG’s overall presentation, it’s easy to tell that it was influenced by games from the 80s and 90s. Having noticed that, I felt it was strange that it lacked an in-game scoreboard. Having a scoreboard would’ve contributed to the player’s overall enjoyment/experience. It’s obvious that most of the traps encountered in this game are destructible, but enticing the player to want to destroy these obstacles for two reasons (for points and survival) rather than one is much better. It would’ve been similar to how the player is encouraged to obtain as many atomiks as he/she can.
For the most part, there were no real negatives in this game such as bugs or FPS issues. It can be said that all of my neutral/negative issues are subjective, but from that I was able to determine that it all comes down to the game’s difficulty, repetition, and the issues that resulted from having to repeat a level over and over again. As it’s been previously mentioned, this game can get difficult and depending on what type of player/person you are, you’ll damn near end up wanting to rage quit. For some reason, RGJG has the option to instantly unlock everything in this game and you’ll also be able to skip a level if you find that it’s too difficult to deal with. I can see this being useful because you’d be able to come back to it at a later time, but I’m the type of player that likes to deal with things in a linear fashion. There were a few instances in which I went against that, but for the most part, I played through all of the levels one after the other.
One of the main issues I had with the difficulty of some of the levels was how repetitive the game got to be. It made me realize that this game is best played in short bursts rather than long marathon sessions. That realization led me to believe/eventually learn that this game was designed with smartphones in mind. That may dissuade some people from playing this game, but that’s up to you.
The issues that resulted from the game’s repetitive nature were things you initially grew to appreciate, but they would eventually annoy/bother you. The in-game music is a looped repetitive track and it can get so annoying that you’ll want to mute it, no matter how good you may initially believe the track to be. The game’s aesthetics will also begin to bother you, mainly with its frequent flashing lights. The flashing lights can eventually become an eyesore and the game even warns you about this. It’s a bothersome nuisance to me, but it can actually be endangering for other people out there. If you have a sensitivity to flashing lights or suffer from an actual medical condition that can be triggered/worsened by incessant flashing lights, you’re better off not playing this game.
Overall, I enjoyed this game. Not only was it fun, but I feel that it was well designed in more ways than one and nowadays that’s easily taken for granted. The only real problem I had was with its unforgiving difficulty level towards the end of the game. I generally enjoy challenging games, but at times it felt impossible to get through this one. If you dislike games that are difficult and have no way to lower the difficulty level, then this game isn’t for you. If you do however enjoy that, then I encourage you to give this game a try.