Why is it that lagomorphs are always so angry and/or violent in fiction?  Max (Sam and Max), Miyamoto Usagi (Usagi Yojimbo), General Woundwort (Watership Down), and now Dusty from PD Design Studio’s Dusty Revenge are all examples of cute lil’ bunnies with violent tendencies.  I guess people really respond to the dichotomy of cute vs. violent.  Just a stray observation-  Noting to do with the review . . .

Dusty Revenge is a side scrolling beat ‘em up in the vein of Final Fight although it also offers some light platforming elements.  Dusty’s journey, a revenge-fueled rampage after the murder of his true love, won’t set the world on fire with its story, but it’s certainly adequate enough to set the stage and provide reason enough to pummel various anthropomorphic animals with some frankly astonishing combos and weapons.

As you can tell from the trailer above, Dusty Revenge has an extremely professional look about it.  The hand drawn characters and backgrounds are of very high quality that one wouldn’t necessarily expect from a small indie studio.  Again, the steampunk flavored Western motif isn’t the most original, but the attention to detail and consistency of theme will make you not care as much that you’ve seen the likes of this before.  The animations are well done, with only a few lurches here and there, notably during transitions from attacks back to running.  After all the beauty PD Design Studio has provided, these moments are jarring, but not so much so that they ruin any sense of enjoyment you’ll get from this title.  The music fits perfectly, effectively highlighting both the epic sweep of the narrative and the western feel of the setting.  Unfortunately, some clunky writing (more accurately potentially clunky localization) makes some of the dialog heavy handed at best and painfully hokey at worst.  The dialog is not done any favors by some questionable voice acting.  Dusty’s voice sounds like someone trying very hard to emulate Logan Cunningham’s stylings in Bastion, but comes off more as a parody than an homage.  It’s a shame, because Dusty’s character would be far more interesting with a more subtle original performance.

Dusty

Fortunately, Dusty Revenge is far more competent when you get to the nuts and bolts of the gameplay.  Action is fast and furious, and as I said before, Dusty has (and can acquire as the game progresses) a staggering number of brutal combos utilizing all four of his main weapons (scythe, pistols, shotgun, and fists).  Combos are fairly easy to pull off, and the controls are mostly responsive.  I had some instances where I couldn’t interrupt a combo to turn around and face an enemy coming up behind me, which made things tricky on the default difficulty setting.  Enemies are varied, which keeps the action fresh.  Where Dusty Revenge really stands out is in the implementation of the support system.  Pushing left or right on the d pad (provided you have enough power in your support meter) allows you to call two additional characters into the fray.  First up is Rondel, who carries an enormous cannon who serves as mobile artillery for Dusty.  Rondel can not only deliver massive damage to enemies, but can also be used to smash through barriers preventing Dusty’s progress through a level.  In a nice touch, falling debris from a blasted barricade can also be used to damage enemies.  Then there’s McCoy, the canine sniper who can take care of enemies out of Dusty’s reach.  A simple button press allows you to enter a zoom mode, increasing the accuracy of McCoy’s shots.  The inclusion of these characters is seamless, and so integral to the gameplay that it never feels gimmicky.  I like that it makes the game so much more than a simple dial a combo beat ‘em up.  

Unfortunately, Dusty Revenge suffers a few missteps along the way that make it feel incomplete.  For instance, blocking and dodging seem to be almost superfluous, since enemy placement seems to rarely allow you to make effective use of either.  I eventually found it more fun to lower the difficulty to a  more reasonable level rather than simply sponging up damage all the time.  While the platforming elements are enjoyable (I especially love using Dusty’s tremendously long ears as a hang glider of sorts while crossing long gaps), I question the jump/double jump mechanic.  The game mostly requires you to employ the double jump when climbing, making me wonder why the default jump height isn’t increased, making the double jump seem more rare.  It’s a minor quibble I guess, but it nagged at me the entire time I played.  Also, I ran into crash issues on more than one occasion.  Fortunately the levels are short enough that I didn’t lose significant progress.  Finally, one more than one occasion, the moves list cut off part way down, making it impossible for me to see the control inputs needed to pull off combos.  Between that and the game occasionally seeming to forget whether I’m using a controller or mouse/keyboard when providing tool tips, it just makes the game look amateurish, which flies in the face of everything else PD Design Studios has achieved with Dusty Revenge.

For $9.99 on Desura, you’re getting a solid game, albeit one that is suffering from a few issues.  Despite its flaws, I recommend playing Dusty Revenge for the pace, the (usually) great combat and combos, and for it’s animation and aesthetic.  So long as you don’t mind a few quirks and a lack of polish along the way, and you aren’t concerned about being blown away by the limited story, you’re in for a treat.