Rage in Peace should probably win some sort of award for truth in advertising. I mean, it’s right there in the title. Rage. Sure, a play on words befits a game about one’s last day on Earth, but this cartoony side-scrolling action-platformer can certainly induce a significant state of frustration. It isn’t for everyone, but those players with a high threshold for repetition, memorization and challenge may find it entertaining, if not for very long.
You play as a nondescript office drone Timmy Malinu, who’s visited upon by the Grim Reaper and told that it is his last day alive and that he will die in some manner involving decapitation. While the story does reveal some added depth along the way, the premise is enough to start the gameplay machinery rolling. Timmy’s singular goal is to reach the end of each, varied level and chapter alive. To do so, he must avoid all manner of obstacles, from falling light fixtures and shark-infested puddles to rolling carts of instant death. Failure means restart at the closest checkpoint, but this is a game of memorization, precision and reflexes so there are no randomly spawning, unpredictable situations… at least after the first run. This extends to the bosses, which can be murderously difficult but at least pattern-based.
How you feel about Rage in Peace depends on your tolerance for mechanics that can be illogical and cheaply lethal. While every moment of the game depends on a suspension of disbelief, the levels and settings suggest real-world logic but then subvert it. Ice spikes and sharks spawn surrealistically from office floor puddles and rampaging office chairs careen lethally down the hall. It’s often an interesting exercise to try and understand why a developer chooses a particular mechanic or genre as a vehicle to tell a story but sometimes — as in the case of Rage in Peace — the story is a relatively irrelevant filigree around the all-important action. At least for me, the game devolved very quickly into a series of often random deaths, and a lot of repetition to reach the end or checkpoint without much satisfaction other than the memorization of a series of well-timed button presses. It’s clear that the game is a gift to speed runners and those who love to chase the perfect score.
So many games in this genre embrace the retro, pixel art aesthetic but happily, Rage in Peace goes for the hand-painted, cartoon look that is more in the style of Super Meat Boy or The Binding of Isaac. The levels move through a variety of indoor, dungeon and exterior environments and despite its grim subject matter, Rage in Peace is colorful and inviting, though every once in a while the visuals suffer from a lack of contrast that makes the action a bit hard to follow. For a game that is primarily an action side-scroller, there is a lot of unvoiced dialog, with a tone that ranges from melancholy to satirically ironic to philosophical. Generally, the humor is more visual than narrated.
I’m not sure the “rage game” genre is really a thing, but if it is, Rage in Peace deserves a place at the big people’s table. Although it has a narrative, lots of secrets and side-quests to discover and a colorful style that helps to balance its premise, Rage in Peace will primarily appeal to a very specific subset of action fans less concerned with strategy or character and more focused on achieving a fast and flawless command of the game’s patterns and obstacles. The game doesn’t aspire beyond that narrow goal, but it does its rage-inducing thing rather well.