Dusty Revenge/ Dusty Revenge: Co-Op Edition

A game by PD Design Studio for PC and Mac, originally released in 2013, with the Co-Op Edition released in 2014.
The modern era of 2D game development is one that is no longer limited by technical restraints. The quaint 8-bit graphics that we all know and love are a product of technology limitations that wouldn’t have allowed for anything more complex. Today, however, the use of such graphics is a design choice rather than a limitation, and developers are equally free to create worlds comprised entirely of high definition artwork.

Dusty Revenge focuses heavily on its visual style and is developed to have the look of a comic book, with colorful high-contrast characters laid out upon detailed backdrops. The game’s cutscenes play out in comic book form, with full screen stills and boxed panels accompanied by narration.

The tale is one of revenge. Dusty’s special bunny (all of the characters in the game are animals) has been killed. Dusty arrives home to find the place on fire and Daisy lying on the floor. He carries her lifeless body outside, just in time to see some bad guys hoofing it away in the distance. He then embarks on a quest to track these villains down and enact his revenge, eventually working his way toward the big bad beast in charge of the gang.

Revenge plots are common in video games, and don’t typically require a strong story to tell. About all you need is “They killed someone you love and now you must kill them all” to give the player an excuse to wreck some shop on every ne’er-do-well he encounters. In the days of old, when the entirety of a game’s story was told in its manual or in some quick introductory cinematic, this was as much as one could expect.

Dusty Revenge, on the other hand, is a character-focused, story-driven game presented in a comic book form – a medium built upon the equal marriage of visuals and storytelling – accompanied by the fully voiced narration of our angry avenger. As such, you’d be given to expect the game’s story to be at the forefront of the experience. However, this is not the case.

The story is mediocre at best, filled with sophomoric dialogue and poorly developed characters, and it is further hindered by structural issues including inconsistent subject-verb agreement and other grammatical problems. While this certainly detracts from the experience as a whole, the writing is fortunately not indicative of the quality of the overall product.

The high definition artwork and comic book style, combined with combo-based combat places the game in the same dirty alleyway as Shank. But rather than fighting thugs and militia in south-of-the-border locales, you’ll be toughing your way through furry beasts in the Old West… at least in the beginning.

You start out fighting your way through the dirt roads and high storefronts of a settler town before moving into the mines, and then across the desert on a speeding steam locomotive. Eventually, you make your way into more fantasy-inspired locales populated with strange structures, illuminated in haunting multi-colored glows, and powered by mysterious ancient technology.

Dusty Revenge single plane brawler that was initially released as a single player affair, but an update adds 2P cooperative play, with the second player taking on the role of Kitsune, a character introduced in Dusty Raging Fist. You start the game with light and heavy attacks, along with infinite-ammo dual pistols to take out enemies at a distance, and a shotgun for blasting baddies up-close. Your light attacks are dealt with your fists, while Dusty pulls out a scythe-like weapon for heavy strikes. Players may mash the light and heavy attack buttons to deal out a string of combos, alternate between them for different attacks, and even launch enemies upward to juggle them.

In addition, Dusty can block, dash, and roll to avoid enemy attacks and cancel their combos, and these moves can be worked together into other attacks to allow for diving gun blasts and powerful uppercuts. An XP meter is employed, which fills with each enemy defeated, allowing Dusty to level up and earn increasingly more powerful and complex combos as the game goes on.

You are also expected to do more than a little platforming. Dusty’s standard jump is slow and provides very little distance. Fortunately, he also has a double jump, which greatly extends his reach. In addition, holding the JUMP button causes Dusty to tie his ears together and float slowly downward, allowing for a bit more precise control when attempting to stick a landing. However, this floating technique is timed, so you need to be careful when using it over one of the game’s many bottomless pits. Fortunately, checkpoints are fairly frequent, requiring little repeated gameplay should you fail.

Enemy variety is fairly typical of the genre, with about a dozen enemy types to be encountered during your journey, some of which are palette swaps. This leads to a bit of repetition – again, typical of the genre – once you have encountered each enemy type. From there, gameplay becomes a matter of understanding how to balance your attacks to deal with enemies in ever-growing numbers.

Since all of the characters in the game are animals of some sort, you’ll be facing off against a wide range of critters, all of whom are lent a bit of extra flavor through their comic book designs. Your basic enemies are hunched rats and agile long-clawed cats that are readily dispatched with your basic quick attacks. There are squat toads with explosives that require more powerful attacks and extra care when mixed into crowds. Shielded enemies must be worn down with heavy attacks before they become vulnerable to others. And a number of brutes – like gun-wielding bulls and hammering hippos – take a lot of hits to bring down… or some explosives from your travelling companions.

Early in the game, Dusty meets a couple of creatures who decide to join him on his quest for revenge. Rondel is a bear whose cub was abducted by the same villain behind Daisy’s murder, and he is on a mission to rescue him. Rondel is armed with a huge gun that fires explosives, and you control their trajectory by moving an arced indicator. While he doesn’t follow you directly, you may summon his explosive abilities at any time (except in a few areas) and he will fire his weapon from the edge of the screen. These explosive blasts can be used to clear away debris to open a path, and used to blast away nearby foes or knock a notch off a boss’ life bar.

The second support character is a sharpshooting dog named McCoy. You can call him in to snipe otherwise unreachable enemies, shoot open chests, grab hidden crystals, and even do a bit of environmental puzzle solving later in the game. You control this reticule as well, and you can zoom in and out as needed, although you only have a limited time to line up your shot and fire. You can also summon both characters at once for a devastating area attack.

Each of your support characters has a limited number of uses, as indicated by the support meter at the top of the screen. This meter refills slowly over time, and can also be refilled more quickly by opening chests filled with green orbs or at special “refuel points”. Chests may also contain yellow or red orbs, which fill your XP and health meters, respectively. Killed enemies also drop a mixture of yellow and red orbs.

In addition, there are several large treasure chests tucked about the world, which can be discovered through a bit of exploration. These chests contain permanent upgrades to your health meter and support meter, as well as a special combo meter which allows for more powerful combos. Finding 3 of any colored vial grants you a permanent stat increase in one of these categories.

Each area is punctuated by a boss encounter. Here again, the character designs shine, with huge detailed comic book images and interesting creature designs. You’ll face off against a hulking gorilla with metal-clad fists, a snake woman who controls a speedy golden viper, a fast-moving cheetah, and a huge multi-phase battle to close out the game.

Boss creatures have a wide array of offensive abilities, although it takes a long time to wear down their health bars with your meager attacks. You will be repeating effective attacks again and again to bring them down, and moreso if you should die in the attempt and have to restart the battle from the beginning. Overlong life bars notwithstanding, boss battles are spectacles unto themselves, forcing the player to study their various behaviors and avoid devastating screen-filling special attacks.

Dusty Revenge is a solid brawler that keeps things interesting with its strong visual style, even though the characters themselves are weakened through poor writing. Still, the game offers a beautiful 2D world filled with colorful creatures in need of a stylish beat down, which should appeal to fans of the genre. Combat is generally satisfying, and your ever-growing combo repertoire gives you plenty of ways to deal with enemies, even if they prove to be a bit underpowered against the huge bosses.

Dusty Revenge was created by PD Design Studios, a Singapore-based studio founded in 2006, which primarily worked in media design for other companies before deciding to become a full-fledged game development house in in 2010. The company started out with Alien Masher and MoveCasters on iOS before moving on to the Dusty titles.

Concurrent with the development of Dusty Revenge, the studio worked on the development of a prequel called Dusty Raging Fist. Up to three players can take on the role of Dusty and two new allies, battling against familiar foes across several new locales. In addition to the standard punchy-kicky, players can offer support to downed allies and team up for more powerful attacks.