When I write reviews, I tend to search for useful analogies to help you get the general idea of what a game is like. These will frequently take the form of “The game is like X + Y”. Dusty Revenge is the most mathematically perfect application of that formula I’ve ever encountered, as it is a flawless combination of Dust and Shank. That’s good news, since I loved both of those games.
Something that Dust and Shank had in common was highly fluid cel-shaded 2D visuals, and thus this is what you’ll find in Dusty Revenge. The main characters of the game are anthropomorphic animals like in Dust. However, unlike the Disney-esque visuals of Dust, the animation style and tone is much closer to Shank. Yes, you’re playing as a bunny, but you’re playing as a bunny with dual pistols, a shotgun and a scythe. Sure, you have animal sidekicks, but rather than a tooth-rottingly adorable fox-bat, you’ve got a bear with an artilary cannon and sniper-hound. And granted, you’re fighting cats and moles, but you’re fighting cats in glossy Kill-Bill bodysuits and moles with massive drills. There’s a little bit of blood and a lot of violence, so the tone is Shank in all but cast and setting (which is somewhere in the steampunk old west range, with exotic locales as the story progresses).
Backgrounds are detailed and deserve a bit of scrutiny, as hidden among the knotholes and crevices are targets which will earn you some bonus experience, and some walls and floors can be detonated with artillery to reveal chests and alternate paths. When the time comes to tell the story, you’re treated to a narrated motion comic that features much more detailed imagery. The same enhanced visuals accompany the introduction of bosses and the like before big clashes.
I’m a big fan of cartoon visuals, so this game really wasn’t playing fair in my case. Seeing the level of care and skill that was applied to every aspect of the graphics instantly endeared me to the game. Did it falter at all? Only in very small ways. If I were to really scrape and dig for something to complain about, during boss fights it is sometimes unclear which parts of the screen are dangerous during a large attack, and some more obvious feedback regarding the location and nature of weak points would have helped me. Also, you don’t get great visuals without some hefty load times.
Another thing that Dust and Shank had in common was their core gamplay, which was focused on stringing together massive combos while brawling with screens filled with enemies. They both had fairly-to-highly nuanced combat systems that were accessible to button mashers but rewarded strategic fighters. Likewise for Dusty Revenge. You start off with a limited repertoire of attacks: Light, Heavy, Pistol. You can also dash, roll, and block. Each kill earns you back a little bit of health and some experience, the latter of which is used to level you up. New levels unlock new combos, and that’s where things get interesting. The combos usually show up in pairs, one branching off of light attacks, the other branching off of heavy ones. What I like about the reveal screen for the new combos is that they associate each button press with a stage in the attack animation, allowing you to visually queue up your presses. For me “press light attack until the uppercut, then press heavy attack until the ground pound” was much more user friendly than, “L+L+L+H+H+H+L”
Dusk has metroidvania elements, but in that way Dusty Revenge leans more toward the linear and discrete levels of Shank. That’s not to say that all of the exploration elements are gone. As I said earlier, you do earn new abilities, not just combos but assists. First is a bear with artillery. When you earn enough assist (which refills with chests or time), you can zoom out and manually target an artillery shell which is useful for opening paths and pulverizing armored enemies. Your hound dog sniper can not only disable bomb-tossing rodents in high perches, he can also knock out hunks of experience. So there are unlocked abilities with utility, just like metroidvania.
There were some aspects of the gameplay that edged into frustration territory. Boss battles are very much about being in the right place at the right time. Once you reach a certain stage of combo, particularly airborne ones, you can get locked in until the end of the hit animation, which can leave you out of position. Likewise, combo moves move you forward, which can cause you to fall into my absolute least favorite part of the game, the bottomless pits. Rather than taking a hunk of your health, pits kill you and send you back to a checkpoint. Another thing that caused pit problems is the double-jump slow-fall mechanic. If you hold jump, you do a slow fall. If you tap jump twice, you do a double jump. Once you do a slow fall, you can’t do a double-jump. I can’t tell you how many times I held the jump a fraction of a second too long, activated slow fall, and then released and tried to double jump, instead plummeting to my doom.
Finally, while I fully expect things like this to be mopped up by a few patches, I did have some stability issues during my review playthrough.
The music is rockin’. The voice-over is good, but not as epic as the animation or combat. Yes, I do short sound sections. This is one of them.
Again, we veer toward Shank in this case. In fact, and forgive me if I’m not 100% accurate on this since Shank was a while ago, but I believe the intro is staggeringly similar in Dusty Revenge. You are a tough guy living with his signifigant other. An array of unique henchmen literally bust into your home. Your lady is hurt, as are you. When she dies, you vow revenge, and cut a bloody path toward the leader of the gang. The story becomes more unique as it progresses, not only by adding more characters with similar goals, but by stirring in some occult or mystical influences.
This game siezed me from the first screenshot, and early on it was on its way to an easy 10. I love the graphics and the gameplay is great. If the combat had been massaged a bit more, and a few of the technical bugs were ironed out, it would certainly be on my list of perfect games. As it stood at the time of review, I had to knock a few points off, but it still is a game I would easily recommend for fans of 2D art and combo-happy brawlers.
8.7 / 10: With its gorgeous visuals and deep, engaging gameplay, Dusty Revenge is just a few tweaks and patches away from a perfect score.