Are you living the dream? It all rather depends on whose dream it is doesn't it? The Princess of Kewtopia dreams of spreading the joy and 'beauty' of the Kewlett way of life to the less fortunate who surround them. The Kewletts, being cute and fluffy and generally rather lovely, are more than overjoyed to carry out her wish. Of course, whatever can't be made beautiful must be destroyed and so begins the struggle that underpins Raze's Hell.
It soon becomes apparent that the 'beautification' project has a rather more sinister and imperial edge to it. Arriving in another backward village the Kewletts quickly commence their 'beautification', shouting "Stop! This will only hurt for a minute" at any poor beast who tries to escape. However, one does escape, ending up in a cave that is home to an ancient artefact. His name is Raze and the artefact turns him into an all-organic revenge machine. Under the guidance of Slivh, another ugly creature with wings, Raze fights all the way to the Kingdom of Kewtopia itself.
The concept is a neat one, with a fun sense of satire that will bring a smile to your face. The Kewletts are indeed a cute adversary and they provide a fair amount of entertainment as you go along. Occasionally you'll overhear an amusing conversation between Kewlett cohorts or a cry of "I'm too pretty to die" or "I'm going to haunt you as an adorable ghost" as you dispatch the Smurf-esque combatants. The world of weird doesn't end there, however, since Raze himself is a creature that can best be described as 'unique'. His weaponry consists of a variety of bugs called 'squibs' which he can suck up and then fire out of his mouth, and a large melee weapon strapped to his arm. Although the game is outwardly cute there's no shortage of blood and gore on show. Since Raze replenishes his health by sucking up the dismembered remains of Kewletts, you'll have to use your melee weapon to mash up the fallen Kewletts, causing a rather bloody mess.
'The Kewletts are indeed a cute adversary...'
Unfortunately this creative and fun premise is backed by a fairly generic third-person action game. Even so, the controls will be familiar to anyone who has played a game in this genre and as a general rule they're fairly tight and responsive. You can combine projectile, melee and even some very basic stealth play to fight your way through the twenty single-player missions - although any stealth required feels very contrived since the game makes it quite clear when to use it. Don't expect to find too many puzzles either, with a strong emphasis on objective-based action gameplay.
The main problems regarding gameplay come from the balance of weaponry and the difficulty it entails. The stock weapons in your armoury are generally a little underpowered, forcing you to engage in effective, but dangerous, melee combat. A problem highlighted when faced with larger groups of enemies, where flying in head-on will simply result in death. This combination leads the normal difficulty setting to be a tad more challenging than it ought to be, whilst also greatly restricting the options available to you. Much of the level design suggests openness, but as with most in the genre, it's ultimately linear in nature. Very occasionally you'll be given the choice of different paths, however, they will lead to the same place and generally don't provide any advantage. One nice addition is the co-op mode, adding some extra value for you and a friend.
Speaking of friends, Raze's Hell also incorporates online play but once again in a fairly generic way. The online options consist of the usual Deathmatch, King of the Hill and Capture the Flag game modes, but also a rather unusual Football mode. However, as a package they will do little to tear you away from the likes of Halo 2 or other more complete online games. Further added value comes in the shape of a series of mini-games which can be unlocked as you progress in the single-player campaign. These provide a mild diversion, but won't hold your attention for long.
Graphics and sound are, much like the rest of the game, solid with occasional flashes of inspiration. As mentioned previously, the Kewletts deliver some smirk inducing one-liners which serve to brighten things a little, but they alone cannot lift the soundtrack and effects above middle-of-the-road proportions. The one black mark in the graphics department comes from some inexplicable frame rate issues. Although they're nothing major, and shouldn't spoil your enjoyment of the game, it seems odd considering the game hardly pushes the boundaries in the graphics department.
Raze's Hell is in most aspects solid and fun to play, yet never inspires anything beyond simple appreciation. Although the premise is original and fun, it alone cannot hide the game's pretty bog standard gameplay. That said, at under £20 it represents a lot of value for money if you need something basic and fun to pass the time.