A video game will get a whole lot of mileage out of a novel setting and a fetching art style. This is the idea that kept occurring if you ask me while playing “Raji: A HISTORICAL Epic,” an action-platformer steeped in Hindu mythology.
A promising, 2-D-animated beginning introduces us to Raji, a woman, and her little brother Golu. Both are alone on the globe save because of their friends, fellow carnival performers. Through voice-over, their warrior-goddess mother, Durga, recounts how Raji used her acrobatic skills to entertain a crowd on a feast day while her brother performed a puppet show. Their performance is cut short when demons kidnap Golu and the other children. In the confusion of events, Raji is knocked unconscious. She awakens within an unfamiliar area near to the foot of a cave whose mouth resembles that of a huge cat. Venturing inside she discovers a temple with a painted floor and a gigantic statue of multi-armed Durga. After offering up a prayer, the goddess seems to Raji as an apparition that cradles her at hand, offering words of encouragement before bequeathing her the Trishul, a staff-like weapon.
“Raji: A HISTORICAL Epic” (Super.com)
Raji’s journey to find her brother takes her through flower-bedecked terraces, sun-splashed market squares, a night-shrouded area filled up with pools of water, a celestial realm where staircases and hallways float in the air and along cliffsides adorned with large statues. The environments in the overall game are its chief asset. Bold colors arrest the attention without overwhelming it with extraneous details. As Raji travels about, Durga and the god Vishnu touch upon her actions. One of the most interesting facets of the overall game is that Raji, throughout her journey, will most likely come after radiant portraits of Hindu gods painted on various surfaces. By walking up to these and pressing a button, Vishnu gives a brief explanation of the depicted scene. I confess, these snippets of Hindu mythology washed over me because their trivia isn’t otherwise interwoven in to the fabric of the overall game. Still, I appreciated these asides. Hindu culture isn’t something I could recall encountering in a gaming.
As Raji progresses through the experience, she acquires other weapons: a bow, a sword and shield and a boomerang-like projectile. In the menus, you can equip different modifiers that put in a selection of elemental attacks – fire, lightning, etc. For the first chunk of the overall game you have only the Trishul and the bow. The Trishul is most beneficial used when fighting against enemies in cramped spaces as the bow works well at dispatching enemies far away. Although I could escape with button mashing in early stages, the added number of enemies in later sections caused me to count on Raji’s parkour moves such her capability to run up walls and leap backward over the heads of her foes. Nonetheless, the combat in the overall game felt like so much rinse and repeat; “Raji: A HISTORICAL Epic” doesn’t do much to expand on the hack n’ slash genre. Of the three major boss fights, I could complete the first and the 3rd by hurling projectiles and dodge rolling without much thought.
The platforming parts of Raji are also generally unremarkable, although I liked that during one the main game Raji can snip blossoms off flowers and toss them into calm beds of water to create lily pads which she can spring across. In addition to that, Raji can do the most common leaps and wall runs, though I came across the controls to become a little touchy sometimes. In several instances it appeared like she’d land on the corner of a platform and then fall off, but perhaps I misperceived something. At the very least, on the Switch version, I encountered a few animation problems where Raji would get stuck in the air while attempting a platforming section. To be fair, such instances are rare. I reached out to the development team about the most frustrating section where I encountered this issue and was assured that it’ll soon be addressed in a patch update.
I fancied “Raji: An Epic Tale” as a purely visual experience that taps right into a rich cultural mythology which includes, to my knowledge, been generally overlooked by the gaming industry. I simply wish that my appreciation ran deeper compared to the surface.