The Ugly Monster
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The Ugly Monster

Playing Every Game in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality

PEGBRJE: ‘RAKETE’ and ‘El Tango de la Muerte’

Cultural overload.

This is going to end poorly.

RAKETE is a cooperative spaceship puzzle game created by Mario von Rickenbach, game designer and co-founder of Playables. This title came before the studio’s founding, and features a ship attempting to land on a blue pad. The problem is that this ship has five thrusters, which just so happen to be individually controllable.

With five buttons controlling five thrusters, players must try to navigate a maze to land the ship properly on the blue landing pad. Hitting walls in the process is a failure, and will restart the the level. This includes not landing the ship right-side up, as in the thrusters are on top of the landing pad and the ship is facing upwards — I learned this the hard way attempting to land the ship nose first.

Since each thruster is controlled by an independent input, the momentum is not universally distributed across the base of the ship unless all buttons are pressed at the exact time. No matter how many people are playing — either alone or with four other players — it is nearly impossible to get the exact movement desired without significant practice. This naturally leads to hilarious hijinks, such as flying so far off the map that the puzzle cannot be seen, or doing loops.

It’s this balance of teamwork that makes RAKETE so enjoyable yet ridiculously hard to pull off, and I was playing solo for the most part. I cannot fathom how challenging it would be with five players. Thanks to its customizability, the five buttons can be any form of input, from controller inputs to massive buttons found on the floor. If you love simple puzzles that will bring everyone together — and also tear them apart at the same time — then you’ll love this one.

El Tango de la Muerte is a narrative rhythm game created by Hernán Smicht, an indie developer presumably based out of Argentina. Players will follow a period piece of the early 1920s staring Luciano, a young Argentinian boy hoping to impress the girl he likes but is facing a problem; he cannot dance the tango. So begins his quest to learn, in the ‘twilight’ era of one of the most iconic dance styles to exist.

Players will attempt to step in time with the music on the squares as they light up in order to gain points, similar to games like Osu and Crypt of the Necrodancer. All that is required are the arrow keys and a sense of timing. Each ‘Chapter’ of the soap opera will feature 1–2 songs of varying tempos and timings.

The first dance establishes how the player moves through the squares. Each dance that follows introduces a new ‘dance move’ that will build upon the previous chapters. For example, bomb tiles will blow up the tiles around, acting as if Luciano had stepped on all of them at once; unlike the yellow tiles however, players will need to look at the surrounding tiles for the timing instead to know when to step on the bomb. This goes for the laser as well to add some sound effects and keep players on their toes.

If at any time the player makes a mistake, such as stepping on a tile that is not yellow or leaving a tile to expire, the meter at the bottom of the screen will begin to increase. If this meter fills with music notes, then the level is failed. Fear not, however, for performing correct movements will empty the meter back down after some time, so mistakes will not cost the game if spaced out.

Where El Tango gets even more interesting is in its narrative-centric mechanics, such as the punching blocks. Certain chapters will feature Luciano needing to defend himself, and are all done so in a tango — for what is fighting if not a dance of violence? These attacking blocks will constantly switch between green and red, which indicate when Luciano needs to step on them. Green means he gets a hit in, while red is the same as making a major mistake (he gets punched). These can be extremely tricky to hit, especially if on a perfect streak, for the switching signs will make the player second guess themselves if it appears red as they move on to it. Many of them are timed to switch at the perfect moment over to green, so there were many times I waited a bit and messed up my combos.

In case this was not obvious, I adore this game. Not only is tango a fantastic dance style and music to listen to, but I have yet to see many games that explore Argentina as both the birthplace of tango but also as the setting for a period piece. The narrative is familiar to soap operas, yet the flavour and aesthetic is something that cannot just simply be tossed together without having personal experiences with the setting. As players progress, they will be able to unlock puzzle pieces for old photos, resembling the two lovebirds that drive the story. I cannot confirm that this is based on a real story. Nowhere within the game does it state this, even if it is heavily implied thanks to the ending photo reel.

The thing is, it does not matter if it is or not. El Tango de la Muerte captures the heart and soul of what makes period dramas so much fun. It gives action, romance, and dramatic suspense all in spades while keeping within the time period that we do not get to see all that often (at least, not up here in Canada). The soundtrack seals the deal for me personally, blending new age sounds with the traditional Latin American music used primarily for tango. It was all done by YIRA, an Argentinian band, and they made me want to fail levels just to keep the music going.

If you love period pieces, tango, and dancing along to music with just your fingers, then this game is a fantastic way to spend an hour or two. Or more. There are challenge modes to keep the fun rolling.

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