May 2023 has been a busy month for gaming. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom alone makes it a monumental month, but releases like Redfall, Darkest Dungeon II, Lego 2K Drive, and System Shock only add to players’ cumulative screentime.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, by the early May release of Cococucumber’s Ravenlok on Xbox Game Pass. Ravenlok, which was announced during the 2022 Xbox & Bethesda Showcase, is a somewhat surprising title that combines the magical realism of Alice in Wonderland with the action and exploration of a Zelda title. Ravenlok is the third game developed by the nine-person team at Cococucumber and marks a slight artistic departure from the studio’s first two games—Riverbond (2019) and Generation Echo (2021).
There is a lot of joy to be found in Ravenlok. Let’s take a look:
What Is Ravenlok?
Ravenlok is a three- to six-hour action role-playing game. After moving from the city to the country with her parents, Ravenlok’s protagonist finds herself transported to a kingdom currently ruled by the Caterpillar Queen.
After entering the kingdom through a magic mirror, players navigate a series of fantastical areas from a Mushroom Forest to a Tea Party to a Mask Mansion. Ravenlok wears its narrative and aesthetic inspirations from Lewis Carrol on its digital sleeves.
Players will spend most of their time completing fetch quests and hacking-and-slashing through Ravenlok’s Wonderland-inspired stages. Four combat skills and a few elemental bomb options are carefully introduced to add variety to the gameplay. These abilities, in addition to your sword and shield, add fun elements to a game that otherwise might feel a bit repetitive.
The game’s exploration is broken up by boss encounters. From the Weeping Fungi to the Woodlock Dodo, the artwork and concepts of each boss are creative and intentional. (The achievements attached to these boss fights are also thoughtfully titled.) These bosses don’t present much of a challenge to our protagonist, but then again, challenge isn’t really the point of the game.
Ravenlok aims to introduce the player to general action and role-playing mechanics. In this way, it feels a little like playing Jak and Daxter or Kameo rather than Jak II or Devil May Cry 3.
A charming time machine, the game plays like you remember your favorite childhood GameCube and PlayStation 2 games. I dashed, swiped my sword, and used magic to my heart’s content. I even found time to dance in front of every rabbit figurine that I found.
Is Ravenlok Worth Playing?
I left my time with Ravenlok smiling. The game never really outstays its welcome, and the puzzles, role-playing mechanics, and combat are serviceable and approachable.
That said, I’m not the target audience for this game. Ravenlok is a kid’s game first and foremost. While I found its brief runtime to be a nice escape from the lengthy games in my backlog or open-world games like Zelda, it’ll hold the attention of someone new to the genre (if not new to games) through a few sessions—not just a single Sunday afternoon.
In a month dominated by Tears of the Kingdom, Ravenlok is a wonderful little escape. It will be the reason someone falls in love with video games, and I bet it will become someone’s favorite childhood game.
Cococumber’s Ravenlok is available on Steam, Epic Game Store, and Xbox Series X/S.