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‘Raji: An Ancient Epic’ review: a superb indie homegrown video game

Screenshot of Raji: An Ancient Epic

Screenshot of Raji: An Ancient Epic   | Photo Credit: Nodding Head Games

Mythology has always been a rich source to tap into for video games. Japan has done it time and time again, with games such as Okami, Nioh and countless more; India, too, has rich mythologies and its concepts and influences can be seen across several games.

However, there have not been many that completely encompass our cultures, even from an Indian studio — until Pune-based Nodding Heads Games released Raji: An Ancient Epic, which is strong on story and gameplay, while respectful in its representation of Hindu and Balinese mythologies.

Raji: An Ancient Epic
  • Developer: Nodding Heads Games
  • Price: Approx. ₹1800 on Nintendo Switch; coming soon on PC, Steam.

Rooted in fantasy

Raji is a classic tale of good versus evil, with gods and demons in an endless battle for control. The last great war had pushed the demons into the shadows but they have resurfaced again, led by the demon lord asura Mahabalsura, the invasion to take over the lands of humans has begun.

Raji, a nimble acrobat and tightrope walker and her brother Golu, a puppeteer, are street performers who are caught and separated in the onslaught. Days later, Raji wakes up with powers, chosen by the gods to take on the demons as she sets out to find her lost brother, ultimately learning more of these mysterious powers.

The story is told through stunning 2D puppetry instead of traditional high concept rendered videos. The tholu bommalata style of shadow puppets as cutouts are detailed, complete with the puppeteering sticks, artfully setting the stage for the story. Raji is a strong central character reminding me of Prince of Persia.

Screenshot of Raji: An Ancient Epic

Screenshot of Raji: An Ancient Epic   | Photo Credit: Nodding Head Games

The voice acting is great, but it would have been even better with a Hindi voice over, with subtitles for international audiences, to complete the immersion into Ancient India.

Raji’s gameplay has several influences that bring it all together into one coherent experience, a multiplane platformer very much in the vein of the original God of War. The main character is graceful as she skilfully jumps over obstacles, manifesting magical weapons, to dispatch demons thrice her size. Each strike hitting with sparks and fireworks.

On the smaller Switch screen it is easy to lose Raji in the fray, as the camera seems to zoom out, making it very Diablo-like at times, with little arenas tailored to give you freedom with Raji’s agile fighting style.

Inspired by reality

Not a very long game, there is a handful of well-crafted levels, that feels more a first step into creating a world that would hopefully span more games. The platforming also feels like Ubisoft’s side-scrolling Assassin’s Creed games, one of which was also set in India. Yet, the detailing and style in Raji feels a lot more historical in its setting, inspired by royal Rajasthan architecture. The protagonist’s skills as an acrobat carries through into the gameplay as she wall runs, jumps and climbs, as the platforming gameplay is well executed with a nice rhythm to it.

Screenshot of Raji: An Ancient Epic

Screenshot of Raji: An Ancient Epic   | Photo Credit: Nodding Head Games

A rare gem, Raji is a stunning game, lovingly hand-crafted with excellent art: towering statues lit in shafts of light, glowing illustrations on the walls, ancient wall murals and carvings, palaces lit with moody lanterns, the city in the distance, and even beautiful ornate doors with sunlight filtering through stained glasses.

If you own a Nintendo Switch, Raji lends itself well to hand-held gameplay which has us looking forward to seeing more releases from Nodding Heads.

For best results, however, it is recommended you play it connected to a TV. If you don’t own a Switch, Raji is slated to launch on PC too, so hopefully it will make a jump into other consoles as well.

The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 6:14:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/gamespot-raji-ancient-epic-video-game-by-nodding-heads-games/article32429303.ece

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