Game review: 'Rikki & Vikki', puzzle solvers
The game has single player & couch co-op modes; Steam's version also includes co-op remote play.
Its story is fairly simple. Two foxy parents (Rikki & Vikki) get an unexpected visit from the Misery Dragon (demon lord of inconvenience), who steals their kids, forcing them to go through 100 different levels down to the center of the earth to rescue them. What ensues from then onward is an arcade-style gameplay that looks similar to Bubble Bobble (1986), but plays more like Mario vs. Donkey Kong (2004). In some instances, the puzzle-solving is combined with quick action, with a challenging difficulty level very much in line with Cuphead (2017) and older-style arcade games.
The difficulty, while high, never feels impossible. There are basically two ways of playing through the game: going for a high score with only three lives, or the sane way: having infinite continues but no score. If you play the sane way, and really put your mind to it, you know that, even if you fail a hard level repeatedly, on the next try you'll have learnt some new pattern that gets you closer to the win. It's not an adventure for the faint of heart, but with patience and focus, it's very playable! Gotta git gud!
And the graphics are gorgeous! Retro but cute, it's particularly impressive that they run on a real 8-bit machine. The PC version goes for $10, while the Atari physical cartridge for $60 includes the game's packaging and an instruction booklet just like an Atari licensed game. The audio's chiptunes on the real cartridge are managed through an added coprocessor, like the Super FX used by other old games such as Star Fox to enhance their features.
To take full advantage of the game you really have to try out the co-op mode. Single player and multiplayer have similar but not identical levels. There's coordination involved in playing multiplayer, just like two foxy parents would need in rescuing their kids! You'll probably need to take a few breaks though; trying to pull through the whole game on a single sitting could be rage-inducing.
My favorite aspect of the game is of course the furry characters. A game is always better when it's got cartoon animals in it. After careful research, I can verify this game is 100% free of hoomans. The art included in the digital manual is spot-on, with cartoon creatures that wouldn't look out of place in a late 80s game release.
Rikki & Vikki feels like a very special game made with love and a clear vision, following a genre I honestly wish were more popular because it deserves to be. There aren't many co-op puzzle platformers out there. This one's a great one!