Sigh. As my back is on its fourth week of hurting, things aren’t looking particularly bright. The same goes for gaming, as the deceptively cute-looking Rabi-Ribi turned out to be an absolutely brutal bullet hell platformer. It features a story, even if it’s not much. A perfectly ordinary bunny, Erina, wakes up on a mystical island of Rabi Rabi, having transformed into a genuine bunny girl. Weird. She really misses Rumi, her master, but perhaps she could be found somewhere on the same island. At first, Erina is only capable of jumping but her chances of survival soon improve as she acquires a delightfully sturdy Piko Hammer. Soon after, she meets Ribbon, a little fairy capable of shooting magical projectiles. With these offensive moves, the duo is more than prepared to explore Rabi Rabi in true Metroidvania style, constantly bumping into hidden new skills, island inhabitants, and countless immensely chaotic boss fights.
It’s quite obvious from the very beginning that Rabi-Ribi is pure hardcore. All the bigger fights are hectic frays in which the player has to constantly dodge impressive attacks that often seem impossible to avoid, all while trying to spot openings for counter-attacks. In the middle of all this panic, the player also has to mind stamina that wears out with every attack made by Erina or Ribbon. Once it runs out, there’s no choice but to back off a little and wait for the meter to recharge. Erina also has an amulet that, for a limited number of times, grants her brief invulnerability. It is naturally only meant to be used for enemy attacks that are simply so massive that they cannot be avoided. Reacting to such times has to be instinctive, though, so the game requires a bewildering amount of skill, practice, and memorizing.
Erina’s adventure makes her stronger, too. The world contains dozens of vials that improve her attack, health, stamina, and its regeneration speed. As well as acquiring entirely new moves, Erina can also find badges that give her various beneficial buffs. If (when) even these items are not enough to help, players can always bin their self-respect and switch to a casual mode. That ensures that even us less-gifted individuals can enjoy the game, finding joy mostly in discovering all the stuff hidden around the various areas of the island.
Rabi-Ribi is quite vast. After 16 hours of playing, I still haven’t completed it fully, even if the closing credits have rolled twice and the map already shows a character that would activate NG+. There are all sorts of epilogues and extra chapters providing more and more to find and challenge, so this is another game I refuse to consider played through quite yet. Then again, I’ll probably leave it unfinished as some of its collectibles are apparently missable. The game also ramps up its already sadistic difficulty towards the end, often requiring pixel perfect jumps and seamless connection of moves that really require their own kind of mentality to find enjoyable. Professionals with godlike skills might be able to scurry through the game on its hardest difficulty in less than an hour and without even picking up any items on the way. Still, such feats are meant only for a small handful of gamers possessing enough dedication.
On whole, however, Rabi-Ribi manages to leave a somewhat positive aftertaste. It combines two different genres in an original way, and even if its story is a bit lightweight and vague, its gameplay has been honed to near perfection. Still, it’s remarkably challenging so those unable to pour hundreds and hundreds of hours into it are probably better off just enjoying it as a speedrun played by someone capable.