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Morkull Ragast's Rage screenshot

This upcoming metroidvania is basically Deadpool meets Hollow Knight – and it’s hilarious

Here’s a sad fact: not many games make me chortle. Oh sure, Untitled Goose Game and Goat Simulator are hilarious concepts (those silly barnyard animals!), but hardly enough to make you well and truly guffaw. In fact, the last time I actually lol’d during a game was when I tried to feel young by playing Fortnite and was repeatedly shot down with no mercy. Embarrassing? Yes. Purposefully humorous? Not really. The real laughs, it seems, stem from that old tried-and-true gimmick: fourth wall breaking.

It’s a schtick that can be seen anywhere from the now-ancient Conker’s Bad Fur Day to the more recent Undertale and Deadpool. Surprisingly, however, fourth wall breaking tends to be oft utilised for shock/horror value more than anything. You know the ones: from Psycho Mantis’ legendary fight in Metal Gear Solid to Doki Doki Literature Club’s creepy schoolgirls. Maybe that’s why I’ve got such high hopes for DisasterGames’ metroidvania, Morkull Ragast’s Rage.

You play as the titular Morkull, the god of death/darkness and ruler of the eponymous underworld of Ragast — which, by the way, is an entirely fictitious place and word (Google tried to convince me I wanted Lord of the Rings’ “Radagast” instead).

If the idea of playing as death incarnate sounds like familiar territory, you’d be right. Last year’s excellent and highly-entertaining action roguelite Have a Nice Death deftly personified the Reaper as a frustrated boss, forced to literally whip his underlings into shape. With that in mind, Morkull Ragast’s Rage already has some mighty big black shoes to fill, but the plot thickens.

Morkull Ragast's Rage screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew

At first glance, it looks like a direct Hollow Knight knock-off; a small monochrome figure manoeuvres around a massive underground expanse, surrounded by mushrooms and baddies to hack through. Moreover, the game even gives you the exact same set of coveted skills found in Hollow Knight, except way earlier. Here, you get the wall-jump and dash in the first few minutes, while Knight makes you sweat, bleed and cry over every inch earned.

So what gives this morbid Hollow Knight-lite the right to exist? Easy: it’s hilarious.

Right off the bat, Morkull is fully aware of the fact that he’s in a game and beseeches us, the player, not to help with world domination or collecting souls, but escaping his programming confines. It reminded me immediately of There Is No Game’s sentient software protagonist, except with a much more devilishly charming anti-hero. A blanket of self-deprecation covers the entirety of Ragast, as the quality of the game is constantly being questioned and DisasterGames’ devs made fun of. The joke could wear thin pretty fast, but it doesn’t.

Morkull Ragast's Rage screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew

For example, when you learn a new skill or find a new item, the description is condescending in all the best ways. “Here, use these when you’re playing so badly”, or “Well, another skill unlocked. Congrats.” There’s a part when you make it to Morkull’s inner chambers, which is complete with a tacky neon sign, domestic furniture and modern appliances, like a bathroom and washer/dryer combo. As Morkull is the only one in on the joke, the dialogue between other characters oscillates between total befuddlement at words like “video game” and “developer”, and an inside joke about something unspeakably humiliating that Morkull keeps under his bed. 

However, witty writing will only get you so far, especially under the metroidvania umbrella, a class of game synonymous with cool, quirky and frustrating titles. Hence, Morkull channels Deadpool’s wacky wry sense of humor and his hard-hitting fighting skills. During skirmishes with foes, the fighting mechanics felt like the beat ’em up games that I adore, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, or Streets of Rage.

Morkull Ragast's Rage screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew

After you deal a series of heavy hits to enemies, there’s a slight satisfying pause before they’re blasted backwards. Bosses, however, are no joke and raise the ante significantly, harking back to Hollow Knight’s punishing battles that require multiple attempts. 

While it may be nothing world-changing, it’s nice to find a game that simultaneously challenges my abilities, and rewards me with some genuine laughs along the way. I’ve only played its demo so far — Morkull Ragast’s Rage is slated for release “soon” — so time will tell if the humour will eventually turn stale, or stay as juicy as whatever Morkull is hiding under his bed. 

You can try out Morkull Ragast’s Rage’s demo for yourself on PlayStation, Steam or Switch. It’s set to release on PlayStation, Xbox, Switch and PC later this year.

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