You know you have a dysfunctional family when your twin brother is always attempting to murder you and tip the world into darkness. In Rico: A Tale of Two Brothers, you play as the nameless, snowy colored brother attempting to stop his evil counterpart, Rico, from destroying everything you love. Unfortunately, your powers have been stripped, so you begin your quest to reclaim them and restore balance to the world. It’ll be a long and tedious journey… And unfortunately, not a very fun one.
Rico: A Tale of Two Brothers is your traditional side-scrolling platformer. The gameplay is not remarkable or unique from any other run-of-the-mill platforming game. The controls are simple and easy to adapt to, as it’s simply running and jumping. The jumping and landing animations seem a little slippery. Falling off of a ledge you thought you landed on is very common, which usually encompasses falling from said ledge into some kind of trap, acid pit, or fall-damage related death. Since your HP maxes out at 3 hit points on Normal difficulty with traps and enemies hitting 1-2 damage, it often means restarting from your last checkpoint. Thankfully, the checkpoints are fairly common.
The game is broken up into a number of different worlds and sub-levels. The goal is to collect coins and progress through different stages until you reach Rico and fight him. There are falling spike traps, spitting plants, mines, and acid pits to avoid. Sometimes you have to dive under and through water while your breath quickly slips away. Once you acquire a weapon, bats and flying energy orbs with their monstrously large hitboxes also become a concern. The only thing that breaks the grind is the occasional jetpack. Although seemingly useful at first, you are limited to flying in certain areas and since it runs on recharging fuel, you have to constantly land in order to fly again. I certainly did not expect to have infinite fuel, but it’s frustrating when you run out only pixels away from your landing goal.
One of the more disappointing aspects of the game is that collecting coins provides no benefit to your character. There’s no shop or character enhancement system implemented into the game. The only way to improve your character is to find sparsely placed upgrades. Rather than be rewarded for spending time collecting coins, you’re simply punished for missing them. If you miss so many coins per world, Rico gains 1 hit point during that area’s boss fight. Why spend a considerable chunk of time searching for elusive coins when you can simply hit the boss a couple of extra times?
Once you finally catch up to Rico, you have an unengaging duel with him, which varies depending on the world. They mostly revolve around gimmicks rather than a straight out fight. For example, in the first stage the object is to jump into the black energy orbs thrown at you, which turn them into white energy orbs that will damage him. The second battle has your character hopping on falling ice blocks until they stack high enough to choke Rico with your whip. The early fights are very dull and tiresome, especially because I chose to duck out on collecting every coin in every map after the first world. The final fight of the game is something I admittedly had a lot of trouble with. It was a surprising contrast from the rest of the game, as it had me restarting from my checkpoint repeatedly.
Rico: A Tale of Two Brothers exhibits the common retro look that indie games usually incorporate. The environments are simple yet visually attractive. The colors are surprisingly vibrant and colorful in almost all of the game’s areas. The main character’s design seems a little underwhelming, as he looks like a giant white blob, but it’s not a large concern. The game begs to be played at a large resolution or in full-screen, as some of the traps can difficult to spot.
The music is really quite good. It provides a nice ambience to play the game to. The tracks had me unconsciously toe tapping to the retro beat. They complimented the stages well and added a lot to the atmosphere of the game. The only issue I had was that there were only two of them, excluding the boss theme. The stages simply alternated themes, which left me vastly disappointed.
Overall, Rico: A Tale of Two Brothers is not a bad game, but it fails to grasp my attention. The monotony of the music and stages make it difficult to like. Fans of platformers are likely to enjoy the game, but gamers looking to play a game with a rewarding experience marked by apparent progress are in for a disappointment.
GAME NAME: Rico: A Tale of Two Brothers
PLATFORM(S): PC, Mac, Linux, Android
RELEASE DATE(S): July 30th, 2012