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Review

Dusty Raging Fist Review

Too much dust, not enough polish

Let’s not beat around anyone’s bush here, Dusty Raging Fist is an absolute mess of a game. There’s very little that makes sense with it, from the seemingly slapped together source material that provides inspiraton for the game’s visual themes, to the near broken gameplay. And yet, something about it propelled me to see the end. Maybe it was some hidden X-factor, buried deep with the game? Maybe it was a masochistic streak within me?

Dusty is a side-scrolling 2D brawler with some curious omissions. The first and most grievous is the lack of enemy health bars. Traditionally appearing at the top of the screen, these little bars were like a countdown to death and provided the risk/reward mechanic to many great beat ’em ups. Does the player risk pounding away on the foe a little longer to further reduce their life or is it time to safely dodge away before a counter attack is launched? Without the health bars, it feels like the player is just punching into the void and thus, what little strategy there was has been removed.

Strangely, there is also no movement on the vertical plane. Instead your furry avatar is restricted to moving only left and right with an occasional jump in between. The reason for this choice becomes clear when you come to the first platforming segment, though this is some of the worst platforming gameplay I’ve ever seen. Controls are unresponsive and floaty, and it’s as if the character models slide across a platform like they are made of ice. Sometimes the game will even send you flying off a platform for no clear reasons. Probably because it hates you.

Combined with the instant death caused by such cliché hazards as water, lava and the infinite abyss, these frequent platforming sections become are almost unplayable. They are even worse with two or three players in local co-op. The game screen cannot decide who to follow and so jumps between each player, frequently leaving characters trapped off screen and unable to catch up with the rest of the team. The only way to proceed through this mess is for two of the players to commit suicide and let the remaining player carry on until they finally reach a re-spawn point.

Combat fares much better, yet is ultimately let down by a lack of impact and responsiveness. Characters perform astonishing moves, but there is little sense of connection to their target. Enemies barely reacting when flaming fists and lightning powered feet smack into them. Because of the lack of reaction they can counter attack at almost any time, frustratingly putting an abrupt end to lengthy combos. That’s if they respond at all, as they’ll often simply stand there in a mass of overlapping sprites, making it impossible to keep track of your avatar’s movements in the visual chaos.

The inevitable boss battles fare little better. Unlike their evil minions the bosses do have health bars but they offer little in the way of challenge, except for when they grab a cheap victory through an insta-kill attack and absorbing vast amounts of damage.

I haven’t mentioned the story yet and there really is very little need to. The plot in inconsequential to the action and, with regards to its twists and turns, is near incomprehensible. Often the environments and the events that the player partakes in differ so wildly from the script that I found myself wondering if they were even from the same game.

There are some positives however. The game world and visual design of Dusty is incredibly creative. This looks like a more violent version of Kung Fu Panda crossed with Sergio Leone’s A Fist Full of Dollars and combined with an anime. It’s filled with standout anthropomorphic character designs such as crocodiles with chainsaws for arms, giant hammer weilding hippos and boxing kangaroos all make an appearance, each of them full of life and near popping off the screen.

There’s also a very comprehensive fighting system here. Based around light, heavy and ranged attacks, the player can perform dashes, rolls, extensive combo attacks and switch between elemental powers on the fly. There’s also some brilliant support characters – a lion and a snow leopard who can be summoned to temporarily pause the action and rain down satisfyingly explosive artillery shells or snipe at the enemy with player controlled first person crosshairs. Gathering experience points from fallen foes unlocks additional combos and move sets. It’s just a shame the game asks so little of the player that these abilities remain mostly unused.

Any good will the developers manage to earn is undone by the final third of the game. There were several points during my plathrough in which the game crashed. Enemies did not spawn when they should have done, preventing progress and forcing a restart. Then, in the latter stages, the frame rate drops to catatonic levels. This, combined with regular freezes, makes the game virtually unplayable. Throw in an extra player or two and the problem is made even worse, turning the final boss battles into a slog that the game cannot recover from.

What’s Good:

  • Excellent character design
  • Graphics look good when static
  • Detailed combat system

What’s Bad:

  • Filled with bugs
  • Terrible frame rate drops
  • Awful platforming sections
  • Combat system is not effectively utilised
  • Incomprehensible story poorly delivered

On initial appearance Dusty Raging Fist looked like everything I wanted from a game, but that just goes to show you should never judge an anthropomorphic 2D side scrolling beat ’em up platformer by its gorgeous anime graphics. Unresponsive combat, atrocious platforming and game breaking bugs, crashes and frame rate issues ensures that Dusty and his cohort will soon be gathering dust on player’s shelves.

Score 3/10

Version Tested: PlayStation 4

 

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