Dusty Revenge looked pretty strange when I first saw it. There’s something about combining a grim western with a bunny protagonist that didn’t have me scrambling for my controller. Then again, Usagi Yojimbo was a pretty sweet comic about a samurai rabbit, and I was just as obsessed about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as any other kid back in the day, so Dusty Revenge had promise. I also love punching faces in any brawler I can get my hands on, so I got ready to make PETA mad and rough up some wildlife in the demo. It’s got some real promise but a couple of issues, and with a bit of polish PD Design Studio could have a great game here.
Dusty Revenge takes place in a steampunk-ish old west, one occasionally showcasing really strange sci-fi machines along with the western motif. It clicks really well, mainly due to the gorgeous art design. This game does not skimp on the artwork, and in the three level demo it went to caves, deserts, towns, a gallows, a seedy bar, and a futuristic train yard. Every few steps showed a place that was wildly different than the last, and they all look incredible. Beyond that, just looking at the loading screens was a treat, as they show high-quality concept art for some of the areas. These images are intricate, and you could easily pore over the details of some of this stuff for a while. I kept dying at one point, so I got to notice small things like interlocking gears in the mouth of a statue and things like that. It felt like no space was taken for granted in the game, and every available inch had something interesting to look at.
The character models are a bit more cartoon-like, but move with a fluidity on par with Shank. Also, all the characters and enemies are humanoid animals, done up to look as tough and mean as possible. They look great in motion, and there were quite a few of them within the short demo as well. I fought quite a few rats mixed in with some bulls, rhinos, and moles. Many of them have what look like cybernetic implants or attached weaponry, but it all just works in the old west/steampunk world the developers created. Each animal, including some variant rats, all had various attack routines and animations; so again, the game just looked fantastic.
The cutscenes are out-of-control tough, though. They’re told in still shots through a rough comic book style; making everything look extremely gritty. The voice for Dusty is even wilder, making him sound like someone scraped his throat with steel wool before he spoke. It’s just so powerfully manly that it’s a little at odds with the source material. The story is told dead serious, and the guy loses his wife and home in a fire right at the beginning of the game, but I still can’t get over the fact that a giant bunny is saying all of this stuff. It’s pure serious western at all times, but the fact that it’s a rabbit never quite left my head. It makes the proceedings a lot funnier than they mean to be, and I’m not sure if the developers meant for it to be like that or not.
Combat sure tries to make Dusty look tough, too. You have a lot of different options available in this beat-em-up: being able to fire your guns, throw some punches right out of Street Fighter, and swing a scythe around. The guns are stupid and useless as far as the demo was concerned, and literally cause about as much damage as muttering under your breath that the enemies are jerks. The shotgun, accessed by holding the button down, isn’t much better. The guns feel like they’re there just because this is a western and it would be weird not to have them. Don’t even use them unless you have a month and a half to kill something.
Your fists are where it’s at. The first few punches are normal, but as you kill enemies and gain experience you’ll unlock newer combos that vary based on you hitting light or heavy attack. By the end of the demo, I could throw a few strikes, move into this power punch that shot a fireball, switch to a variant on E. Honda’s thousand hand slap, spin my scythe like Dante from DmC: Devil May Cry, and then finish with Ken’s super uppercut. I honestly felt like I was running through a gamut of Street Fighter IV moves, and it absolutely works. Having so many combos and moves available helped stave off the inevitable boredom that comes from playing a beat-em-up. Eventually, these games tend to feel like you’re repeating the same stupid move into infinity, so it was great that Dusty Revenge was doing steps to keep that feeling at bay.
You’re also given a couple of interesting options from having two partners join you. Like the super moves from Streets of Rage but far less ridiculous, you have some guys hanging out in the wings waiting to help you. You have a bear that fires artillery, and a dog that is backing you up as a sniper. A meter constantly charges under your health bar, and once you fill one block of it you can access one of these guys. The meter fills fast so you can feel free to use them frequently, and they can really help you out when you’re in trouble. In other areas, such as against one of the bosses, they’re the only thing that can help you once you get grabbed.
I had a couple of issues with using them. The big one is that when you choose one, you have to aim his attack where you want it to go, but the action doesn’t stop while you do so. Your character blocks while you line up your shot, but there are plenty of moves that can get through your block so you need to move fast before Dusty gets beat around. Also, the artillery damages you if you get hit, so you need to rush away from the enemies and pray they don’t catch up while you aim. That one’s annoying, but manageable. The sniper’s issue is far more aggravating, as you have to line up your shot in a wide, normal view before zooming in if you want to hit anything. The problem there is that when you bring your aim in, it tends to be off by quite a bit even if you’re aiming right at the enemy’s head right before you zoomed in. You always have to waste precious time re-aligning your shot when you zoom, which sucks even more when Dusty is getting his head kicked in while you screw around with the sniper.
Dusty can handle himself quite well on his own with all of his moves, though, so I wasn’t reliant on the other two characters in the demo. His moves also stun enemies a little bit when he hits them, so if you can get all the enemies together in one spot you can pound them to death. The hard part is in pulling that off, as one or two guys typically hang back to shoot at you. This drove me crazy in Shank and ramped up the difficulty, but in Dusty Revenge there wasn’t any move that helped you deal with enemies at range (Besides the useless guns that don’t help). You just have to knock one group down and then jump at the straggler, hoping he doesn’t shoot you a few dozen times while you’re airborne.
This is when your ability to air juggle enemies becomes more hindrance than help. You can start throwing punches in the air and it will keep your floating there for as long as you’re attacking. I’m sure it could be put to cool use, but I never noticed any attack that would put an enemy into the air for me to use that ability. Even worse, when you want to jump at a creature and attack it, I’d often start swinging in the air when I was about to land; throwing punches over the enemy’s head and locking myself in a spot where he could get a few free shots in. I would really like to see some sort of jump kick thrown into the game for guys like me who reflexively jump at distanced enemies. It would be a lot more useful than the air juggle that rarely came up.
The only place I did use it was against the final boss of the demo as it was up higher than I was. I had to be hitting it as many times as I could in the air because the stupid giant snake took an unreal amount of damage. It wasn’t the hardest thing to fight after I lost a few times and learned its pattern, but it took a lot of hits to put down. After that, it was followed up by a quick-moving snake charmer that was even worse. It took dozens of tries for me to beat her just because you have to hit her so much to beat her. I swear I was hitting her almost constantly for minutes on end, and her health bar was draining unbelievably slowly. I know this is fairly common with many beat-em-ups, but it’s not something I’ve ever liked. This boss could have still been a challenge and taken half as many hits as she had, and instead it just made the whole match feel like a slog. I’m hoping it’s balanced a lot better in the final product, because that fight alone made me want to quit.
It is pretty good outside of that fight, though. Combat is satisfying with its array of moves, and with the menagerie of enemies with varied fighting styles it stayed fresh. Fiddling around with your combos just kept the game interesting, and the constant shifts in background made it a treat to be going anywhere. The art design is fantastic in Dusty Revenge, so the game does have a lot going for it for the picky beat-em-up fan. The damage balancing issues and my gripes with some of the controls do get frustrating, but overall they could easily be fixed as the game moves toward its final release. I am tentatively excited for what this game is going to become, though, as I do love me some ridiculous beat-em-ups. One about a hard-nosed rabbit gunslinger is right up my alley.
If the game interests you, go vote for it on Steam Greenlight.