In a world where gamers are board playing Greek, Egyptian or Roman mythology. ‘Raji’ ushers in a fresh take on the side-scrolling action-adventure, role-playing genre. Raji is one of those rare, special games that takes things and makes them new again. Developed by Nodding Heads Games, an independent studio based in Pune, the gamer is an action-adventure-puzzle-platformer.
This is the work of a small studio in India, and it’s a game built on Hindu and Balinese myths and artistic traditions. Vishnu and Durga’s roving conversation shapes the narrative, cut-scenes are handled by shadow puppets or replaced entirely by the discovery of huge, vivid murals within the game world itself.
This game feels more like a piece of art than a game, which is not a bad thing at all. You constantly find yourself getting lost in the intricate designs and patterns and just stop to admire the beauty created by the game designers.
The big charm of Raji is its unique visual, aural, and scripted landscape, owing to its Indian roots and thanks in part to the fact that it’s rarely depicted on screen in the video game arena. We especially loved Raji’s background score and sound design, which incorporates local folk instruments
Raji has you fighting a variety of monsters whose designs also draw off Indian mythos. There are huge, hulking beasts with a giant club as weapon. There are fast-moving money-like creatures that want to bite your head off. Others launch bile-filled projectiles, have the ability to fly, or are shaped like a chakra with an eye in the middle.
The enemies you face as Raji change as you traverse new worlds, though some carry over across worlds. As Raji chases the demons to free Golu, you begin in a temple to Durga (Sharma) that feels inspired by royal Rajasthani architecture. The second world — “Hiranya Nagari” — is meant to be dedicated to Vishnu (Sourin Chaudhari) himself and revolves around lotuses and water. While the Durga world is tinged by fire, consists of misshapen rocks, and feels inhospitable, Hiranya Nagari is elegant, beautiful, and serene thanks to its cool colour palette and design aesthetic.
As you progress into newer worlds with Raji, you’ll also unlock new elemental powers and weapons gifted by the gods. You start off with a Trishul and lightning abilities thanks to Durga, with Vishnu later granting fire and a ranged weapon.
Raji feels a lot more historical in its setting, inspired by royal Rajasthan architecture. The protagonist’s skills as an acrobat carry through into the gameplay as she wall runs, jumps, and climbs, as the platforming gameplay is well executed with a nice rhythm to it
The story is told through stunning 2D puppetry instead of traditional high concept rendered videos. The tholu bommalata style of shadow puppets as cutouts are detailed, complete with the puppeteering sticks, artfully setting the stage for the story. Raji is a strong central character reminding me of Prince of Persia.
The game is proof of what India can contribute to the games industry from its vast culture — with the right eye.
Raji is a rare gem, stunning game, lovingly hand-crafted with excellent art.