We're Halfway Through 2019 and Raw Thrills' Game Lineup is Disappointing


As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of Raw Thrills. It’s a great company—comprised of wonderful individuals—and they’ve made some phenomenal games. However, because I know the studio is capable of such stellar feats, I'm more in-tune with what I consider the “missteps”. Unfortunately, most of the 2019 has left me majorly underwhelmed.

While I’m usually pumped for the release of new Raw Thrills games, I haven’t felt anything for their current lineup. All of these titles appeared squarely aimed at a more “casual” market, leaving little for players like myself to enjoy. And for that very reason, I want to examine each of Raw Thrills currently released and upcoming titles to better understand this issue.

Let’s get into it.

Marvel: Contest of Champions

As the only title on this list I’ve gotten to try for myself, I consider myself equipped to discuss its problems. First off, Contest of Champions is a smartphone game port, through and through. After the decided let-down that was Injustice Arcade—and the fleeting hope that we would see a “true” fighting game in the future—this was not what many of us wanted.

Upon first encountering the Contest of Champions cabinet and its joystick-and-button layout, I was led to believe it was more “Street Fighter” than “rock-paper-scissors”. But then, I played it, and I realized that the joysticks were largely superfluous and that each credit netted very limited gameplay. (No “Winner Stays, Loser Pays”, either.) Also key to note is the absence of any single-player content or additional modes.

My disappointment lies mostly in what could have been. I hoped that Raw Thrills had taken a golden opportunity to test a traditional fighter in the FEC market, but found instead another card-vending, video merchandiser. Considering this title funded by the noted amusement chain that dropped Tekken 7, I guess it was to be expected.

Super Bikes 3

Here’s what should have been 2019’s most exciting release—and what will likely be the highest-earning one—but looks far less than adequate. I’m sure you’re all well aware of how I feel about it, but I’ll paraphrase: It’s everything I didn’t like about Cruis’n Blast and…less, I guess.

While SB3’s track count was increased from five to eight close to production—something I will never, ever take for granted—it still doesn’t seem a worthy contendor in the franchise. There’s no single-player content, no additional modes, no Super Cars-esque achievement system, no upgrade system, and no player profile system. Great features from previous games are mysteriously cut.

Like Contest of Champions, I see this as a missed opportunity. With 10 years since the release of Super Bikes 2 and Super Cars, players came to expect a new installment that would be at least slightly better than its predecessors. What we got took three or four steps backward. Something about that is off-putting to me.

Slither.io

While Raw Thrills has done mobile game ports before (see: Contest of Champions, Inustice, Doodle Jump), I tire of how many they put out. And now, with a browser game on the market, I’m completely over the practice.

Instead of coming up with an original, compelling idea, Raw Thrills has taken a popular, free-to-play experience and reworked it for ticket redemption. This is often a successful strategy but not one “core” players find too appealing.

As a fan of Raw Thrills’ more traditional releases such as Target: Terror and TMNT, I’ve come to expect more vibrant concepts. Slither.io, being a redemption-based web game port, is anything but.

Nerf Arcade

While I hardly ever write about redemption, I made an exception for Nerf Arcade. Something about the intense online discourse surrounding a rather forgettable machine inspired me to take a closer look at the medium. Four months later, I’m still not too jived about it.

At its core, Nerf Arcade is a simple game. Swipe in your Dave & Buster’s Dollars™, briefly shoot moving targets, and then collect your hard-earned tickets. It’s the kind of title I’m good at ignoring in an arcade. But coming from one of my favorite companies, it doesn’t feel so good.

When Nerf Arcade was first revealed, I took it as confirmation that dedicated arcade gamers were no longer a development priority. Now, I’m desperately hoping that’s not the case.

Centipede Chaos

Out of the seven titles I’m discussing today, Centipede Chaos deserves the least retribution. It’s actually a pretty neat reimagining of Atari’s 1981 smash hit. My only real grievances with Chaos are the obligatory ticket redemption mode—which, of course, cannot be disabled by the player—and the weird decision to use joysticks instead of trackballs.

I’d love to play the game, too, if I ever found it on amusement mode. But if Space Invaders Frenzy is any indication, that’ll be about as likely as finding the needle in the proverbial haystack. Unless more operators start believing in video products—or Raw Thrills/Play Mechanix/ICE cease implementing redemption modes—I can’t see myself playing this one.

I hate to say it, but Centipede Chaos shouldn't be my most anticipated Play Mechanix/Raw Thrills release of the year. This is the kind of game that’s meant to pad out a solid schedule—not carry the calendar. Unfortunately, looking at 2019 as a whole, this is where we stand.

World’s Largest Frogger

Though World’s Largest Frogger has not yet been officially announced, it was spotted on test last month (news via Arcade Heroes). The concept is the same as World’s Largest Pac-Man and Galaga before it: License a classic arcade game, rework the software for redemption, and broadcast it on an LED billboard.

Even though I don’t necessarily have a problem with World’s Largest Frogger on its own merits, I can’ help but be underwhelmed by it during such a dry year. Raw Thrills’ annual releases are finite—and since we’ve already seen Contest of Champions, Super Bikes 3, Nerf Arcade, and Centipede Chaos, it feels like we’re running out of time to get something genuinely worthwhile.

Star Trek: Battleground

And here’s yet another (!!!) ticket redemption piece that recently popped up on Arcade Heroes. I don’t want to write about it, so here’s a link to the original article. If anyone asks, video didn’t die—it was murdered.

It may be hard to tell, but I don’t enjoy being negative. When good stuff comes along—like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, exA-Arcadia, Black Emperor, and Enter the Gungeon: House of the Gundead—I dish out all the praise I can. But when arcades are going south, I jerk back the wheel.

Even if 2019 hasn’t been amazing, I can tell Raw Thrills is listening. Where Super Bikes 3 once had five tracks, it now has eight. (A very small gesture but an important one just the same.) Question is: Will the remaining six months of the year see any improvement?

In the meantime, I want Raw Thrills to know that I appreciate what they do. They’re pleasant to work with and just plain nice to talk to. But I’ve seen them make better games—and it was awesome.

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