Lava. The eternal enemy of platforming heroes. Mario burned his britches on lava pools, as did Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet and Banjo. Now Raider Rush’s pixelated archaeologist man is tasked with escaping the hot death of molten magma.
Our hero in Raider Rush has no official name, but I’ve named him Louie, because that’s what was on Netflix in the background. It just felt right.
Louie is tasked with returning to the surface after descending far down into a stairless underground temple. Having completely forgotten to pack rope, Louie must utilize his impressive jumping and climbing abilities in order to ascend back up to the surface world. There is only one catch (well, two if you count all the booby traps): every level is filled with rapidly rising lava. One wrong step or missed jump, and you’re halfway to your own BBQ.
Thus Louie, like Mario, Crash, and all the rest before him, must stay well away from the lava before it nips at his toes and sends him back to the start of the level to retry once more.
Raider Rush has a control gimmick that makes it particularly difficult to navigate the upward ascent: once you begin moving, you cannot stop. Players must make every jump count, ensure every change of direction is safely timed, and keep their cool as they wall jump through the majority of the game.
In fact, the wall jumping mechanic is where the game’s difficulty largely lies. Louie can jump up against a wall and then jump off and up in the opposite direction. It sounds easier than it is, because you have to realize that jumping from a spot will send Louie in the opposite direction. So that inversion coupled with the stress of needing to outrun the lava was enough to frazzle my brain more than once, resulting in many untimely deaths for poor Lou.
Raider Rush was always quick to reload the level, so the punishment for dying is never severe. The levels themselves, once you’ve mastered them, are short enough to be completed in under half a minute. And you can compete against your friends to see who can beat levels the fastest. There is also an endless mode that tasks players with seeing just how far they can ascend before they plummet to their doom. I found that the endless mode is a great way to break up the monotony of having to keep trying the same level over and over.
Raider Rush may look like a simple platformer, but thanks to few control mechanics, the experience is constantly challenging without being impossibly hard. When you fail in Raider Rush, it feels like it’s your own fault and not the game’s.