Dusty Revenge [Review]
I only had a few complaints about Dusty Revenge when I played the demo a while ago, and I’m happy to say that most of them got ironed out, or were at least improved slightly. After all, the super-tough story of the world’s most manly-sounding rabbit begged to have a solid game to go along with it. It comes extremely close to making it, but a couple of hiccups keep it from being quite as good as it should be. For someone looking for a complex beat ‘em up, though, it’s still a great purchase.
Having played modern beat ‘em ups like Fist Puncher and Code of Princess lately, I was used to games that didn’t have much in the way of combat options. Sure, these games had extra characters that changed the combat a bit, but fighting would still get pretty boring if you played for any more than a half hour or so. Dusty Revenge deals with that by giving the player one of the more robust combo systems I’ve seen in a beat ‘em up — providing enough moves to keep a Street Fighter character busy. The game uses its light and heavy attacks, only requiring that you fiddle with the timing of your button presses in order to pull off some neat moves. Want to do a hundred hand slap and transition into a flaming charge/uppercut? This rabbit has you covered. Mike Haggar wishes he could do all this stuff.
You get your moves gradually through the game’s experience system. It’s set up quite well, as I found that I tended to gain a level pretty much when I was completely comfortable with all of the moves gained from my last level. It’s not that hard getting used to them, either, as many of your older moves will transition into new attacks once you learn how the timing works for them. It’s very easy to add a little something to the moves you’re already comfortable with, making combat flow very naturally despite gaining four new attacks. There’s no learning a whole new array of directional presses and clumsily stumbling through combat for a few stages every time you gain some new moves, and for that I’m thankful. Just don’t be a dummy like me and misinterpret some of the symbols in the moveset screen; otherwise this game will take longer to learn than it should.
It can be hard to finish a lot of your combo moves at times, though. The enemies in this game get pretty relentless after the first few stages, with many of them using explosives or firearms. It’s hard to get some of these combos going when some jerk on the far side of the screen is tossing dynamite around, so I found that I had to keep myself limited to much shorter combos or taking pot-shots. It can get pretty annoying at times, but it did force me not to just keep using my most powerful combos for the entire game; imposing some mandatory variety on me. Besides, how much fun would I really be having if I just stun-locked the whole group of enemies on each screen with a huge attack, doing that over and over again until the game ended? As much as I hated getting my combo broken, it was a necessary thing.
Besides, I could play defensively instead of just rushing for my big moves, anyway. You have a neat block and counter system in the game, probably one of the easiest I’ve ever seen. If you block and an enemy attacks you, you’ll flash yellow for a moment. Hit attack at this time and you’ll do an area attack that knocks down most weak enemies and does some pretty nice damage to them. It’s very simple with the visual cue, and that yellow light seems to last for a good amount of time before and after the attack animation. It was pretty easy to counter after an attempt or two, and soon I was using it all the time to beat back the enemies. If it weren’t for the fact that larger enemies could take it without getting knocked down, I would have tried to hose the whole game with it. Don’t expect it to help you with the explosive or gun-wielding enemies, either.
You have a couple more moves available if you need to dart around combat as well. You have a rush that you can do, although I found it had limited usefulness unless you wanted to transition into an uppercut to air juggle. That was pretty much its only use, and missing with that move means eating a lot of punches before you can recover. Much more useful is the roll — a handy move that lets you avoid most damage and shuffle along the screen. I used that move all the time, although again, guns and explosives are your bane. Gunshots seem to travel along the lower part of the screen, and you’ll still get picked apart even if you’re rolling. Explosions don’t always hit you, but they tend to have a wide radius that my rolls always seemed to stop in. Given that most enemies in the game use melee extensively, though, it’s still a handy move that makes combat a lot easier.
You do need all the help you can get in combat, although some of that help shouldn’t be needed. While missing a dash to uppercut move is a disaster, it will happen far more often than it probably should due to the game’s dodgy hit detection. I found that a strange array of my moves would hit or miss at weird times; missing enemies that I should have been hitting with annoying frequency. I often flew right through enemies when I tried to land moves that knocked them into the air, or they would shoot up a few seconds after the move was done and I’d already fallen most of the way to the ground. Other times, attacks would hit or miss downed at enemies seemingly at random, costing me valuable extra damage.
That weird hit detection isn’t restrained just to the enemies, either. Big enemy attacks seemed to hit me at really odd times, or would pass right through me with no effect for some reason. I used the latter a lot against some of the tougher bosses in the game, but a lot of those same big creatures would be able to hit me even though the attack animation had landed outside of my character’s sprite. It makes it so you always want to put a lot of distance between yourself and the enemies when they’re about to land a powerful attack, but it was hard getting used to having to move so far outside of the attack range. I got really frustrated with this over time, as it meant getting hit a lot of times by attacks that, visually, had missed me completely.
Bosses seem to have the biggest problem with the hit detection. A lot of really powerful area attacks could be avoided just by staying airborne and attacking the boss while their attacks landed, as the attacks didn’t seem to be programmed to do damage on the way down most of the time. Other times, beam attacks would hit me as I watched them land a short distance ahead of my character, as if some invisible shockwave had hit him and blown him back. Considering the bosses are extremely tough compared to the regular enemies and require NES-era memorization to hope to beat most of the time, this makes them even more aggravating to fight when they should have been the best part of the game.
I still love them on a certain level, though. For starters, each of the bosses has been designed with loving care — being given crafty move sets that make them dangerous for the clumsy or unprepared. They also have a tendency to rip the player apart with only a few attacks, so they create a genuine fear about getting hit. Their hit points also appear to have been adjust slightly since I played the demo, as the amount of damage they needed to be put down felt a bit more fair. It’s not a huge difference, but it no longer felt like I was whaling on them forever.
You do need to make extensive use of your side characters if you want to beat the bosses. You can summon a bear with a rocket launcher and a dog with a sniper rifle to help you out, although the action doesn’t pause while you fiddle with their weapons. For the bear, you adjust the arc of an explosive shot, and for the dog you can zoom in on a few enemies and fire extremely powerful shots. Your character will block while this is happening, but your best bet is to stun an enemy or boss with your regular attacks before attempting these moves. They can be frustratingly hard to land when you start, but try to use them every once in a while until you get used to them. They become practically mandatory after a while, and you’ll want to be good with them before the game really gets hard.
Those summon moves become quite necessary because the game is constantly throwing new enemies at you. All manner of other humanoid animals like rats, snakes, cats, rhinos, and bulls will be coming after you, and each of them has different attack routines and behaviors. Eventually the game does start changing the colors and costumes of these creatures instead of creating new enemies, but the different costumes tend to indicate a change in move sets as well. While a rat may be wearing a completely new outfit, don’t expect him to fight like the ones you’ve run into before.
Those enemies all look great, moving with the fluidity of a cartoon and reminding me of the animation in Shank. It makes the game look fantastic in motion. The levels are sharp as well; moving through a variety of different locations that run from the old west to a futuristic city. The developers at PD Design Studio have really created this neat mixture of western and sci-fi design — crafting a world that looks unique and appealing. It’s also allowed them to create some really great locations, ones that continually surprised and delighted me. You couldn’t move down a city street without seeing many individual buildings; the sort of thing that another developer might have skimped on.
One place that art design kind of fell through was in the game’s trap designs. It is very, very hard to tell when you’re about to walk into some of the hazards in the game, if only because they’re animated in the same art style as the background items. It’s difficult to tell what is a decoration in the artwork and what is a trap, as it all appears to look the same, right up until you take damage from it. You can easily tell with some of the moving traps, but many of the game’s collapsing floors look exactly like the regular floors, resulting in some cheap deaths. I took a lot of needless damage from things that didn’t look like they would hurt me, and would have liked to see those hazard indicated a little better. Even so much as a bit of debris falling off the platform would have been enough to help me out.
The game’s loading screens and cutscenes are also appealing. I snapped a couple of screenshots of the loading screens just to enjoy the detailed artwork there, as it’s genuinely gorgeous. There’s just so much going on involving the machines and moving parts that you can spend a long time poring over the details and not get bored. The cutscenes are done in a darker art style, looking a little dirtier and meaner than the clean, cartoon art style of the characters during gameplay. It’s supposed to make the game feel a lot darker than it comes across during gameplay, and while it looks good, it ends up being a bit of a tripping point.
As manly as the rabbit sounds, the game is still about a humanoid bunny fighting other humanoid animals. Its premise is more than a little silly, but the game plays itself up so seriously that it’s hard not to laugh at it. The game tries to build up this emotion around its main character and make him seem tough, but something about these random shots of plot every few stages just doesn’t fit right. It tries to dance the fine line between interesting and silly that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics did, but doesn’t quite nail it. It feels like it tried a bit too hard, so the story ended up coming across as ridiculous and overwrought.
You could at least listen to some nice music while waiting for the cutscenes to end, though. The western vibe comes through really well in the game’s soundtrack, and is a refreshing change from the typical rock/metal music that tends to infuse modern beat ‘em ups. It didn’t pump me up as much as some other soundtracks have as a result, though, so it’s not all good news. Still, the western sound is nice for those who don’t often get to enjoy it, and it is well done.
Short of some hit detection issues and a lame plot, this game has a lot going for it. It’s got a huge move set, simple attacks to learn, beautiful stages, great enemy and level design, and a fun, unique soundtrack. It does a lot of work to keep the game interesting and varied for its players, something very few brawlers manage to pull off effectively. If you can deal with the rotten hit detection and goofy plot, you’ll have a good time with Dusty Revenge. Besides, who cares about the plot in a beat ‘em up, anyway?