Dusty Raging Fist

A game by PD Design Studio for PC, Mac, PS4, and Switch, originally released in 2018.
In 2013, Dusty Revenge was released, offering a tale of revenge starring a long-eared justice-seeker named Dusty, which was presented with stark comic-style artwork. Developed concurrently – but released five years later – Dusty Raging Fist is a prequel and begins with a prophecy of two moons lining up in the sky, resulting in terrible events around the world. Legend has it that this celestial event will bring death, pestilence, shipwrecks, and (somehow) the kidnapping of children. In the past, these calamities were averted by some legendary hero entering a set of mysterious catacombs and overcoming a great evil.

While the two moons have not appeared in centuries, it seems that the time is nigh for such perils to arise once again, placing Dusty – and his friends – on the path to thwart these evils once more. The game offers three playable characters in 1P, as well as 2P or 3P cooperative play across a number of single-plane environments. Per beat ‘em up conventions, the playable characters fall into three categories, with Darg (a bull) being slow but strong, Kitsune (a fox, obviously) being fast but weak, and Dusty being the most balanced of the three.

Dusty begins the game with a 4-hit light attack, a 4-hit heavy attack with a sword, a jumping 4-hit light attack, and a jumping downward sword strike. He can also pull out his dual revolvers to fire repeatedly and hit enemies at a distance, which is done by repeatedly pressing the SHOOT button, and doing this while jumping allows him to descend slowly while firing. The revolvers can be fired to the left or right, or at upward and downward angles (with downward angles only possible while jumping), but they don't do much damage. Alternatively, the player may hold the SHOOT button to pull out a shotgun for a single heavy blast that does a lot of damage.

Kitsune’s attacks are very similar, as she uses her hands for light strikes and a sword for heavy strikes, but rather than using guns, she fires energy blasts. Darg is the brute of the bunch and uses his bare hands for light and heavy attacks. His ranged weapon is a huge boomerang that goes all the way across the screen, and holding the button results in a heavy ground slam. All of the characters are able to perform a 1x nonvariable jump, plus a double jump that extends this to 2x. Each character can also perform a dash and a dodge roll.

As in the previous game, the player eventually encounters a pair of support characters that can be summoned with a button press to perform specific actions. This time around, a lion named Leo offers his artillery services, which can be used to destroy obstructions that block your path, or it can cause damage to all onscreen enemies. Once activated, the player must move a reticule to the area that he wishes to render explodey.

There’s also a snow leopard named, um… Snow who offers her services as a sniper. Her abilities are often required to strike otherwise unreachable enemies that appear in the background, such as snipers or baddies in guard towers that toss out explosives. Here, the player moves a reticule and is able to fire multiple times, but the reticule moves very quickly and there is no way to adjust its sensitivity. It's also difficult to line up shots while fighting regular enemies, which occurs frequently. Calling in support characters requires that the support meter be full, and this meter refills slowly over time. There are also times when support characters become temporarily unavailable, but this usually happens during dedicated platforming sequences when they wouldn't be useful anyway.

Throughout the game, the player is able to unlock several elemental-based support characters, although only one of them may be selected for any given mission. The first of these is Freya, who can be summoned to send an ice attack across the screen, freezing enemies in place, and she also enhances regular attacks with ice. Other elemental characters offer lightning, wind, and fire attacks. It’s also possible to spend XP to upgrade these summoned characters independently, but the game does not display what these upgrades will do until you actually purchase them.

Defeating enemies and opening chests reveals red orbs that replenish your health and yellow orbs that give you experience points, and there are also small blue crystals that refill the support meter (these must be sniped by Snow in order to be collected). Players who fully explore the environment may also find large crystals, with three red crystals permanently extending the health meter, and three blue crystals permanently extending the support meter. The world map shows if any permanent upgrade crystals remain to be found within any given level.

Combat is quite stiff at first, since players are not able to mix light and heavy attacks for different effects, at least not at the beginning of the game. Instead, defeating enemies grants XP which may then be spent to level up and unlock new attacks and more complex combos. There are multiple upgrade tiers, so it takes quite a while to unlock all available attacks.

By purchasing the second upgrade tier, the player gains access to a sliding kick, a 7-hit light combo, and a heavy uppercut. The third tier unlocks a dashing strike, a jumping downward strike, and the ability to mix several light and heavy attacks together for new effects. It’s important to understand how certain attacks string together or finish in order to properly perform crowd control, especially since there are some flying enemies, and there are many enemies who use projectile weapons to hit you from a distance, and enemies often attack in large numbers.

Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to determine how much damage you’re doing to your enemies since most of them can absorb a lot of damage, and none of them (except bosses) have life bars. This makes it difficult to prioritize attacks since it’s hard to tell whether you’re close to killing an enemy, or if any of the attacks in your repertoire are stronger than the others. You may think that you’ve killed a tough enemy only to see it stand back up and return to the fight, sometimes after multiple knockdowns.

As in the previous game, character designs are the standout here, with a comic book illustration style used for characters and enemies, each of whom gets a character portrait card and brief description upon being introduced. Bosses in particular stand out with lovely character designs, even if the battles themselves tend to wear on due to their overlong health bars.

Environments are very repetitive and quite long compared to other genre entries. The player must travel through several virtually indistinguishable segments before completing any given level, while facing the same handful of enemies again and again - in roughly identical configurations - further adding to the repetitive nature of the experience.

The action is broken up from time to time with some basic platforming, and with some vehicle-based segments. In one area, players take part in a simple shmup sequence by hopping into bee-like machines that fly with fast beating wings. Another area features a 4-legged tank where one player can hop into the back and shoot a huge cannon, while the other player can make the tank walk and fire a front-mounted machine gun… although this is somewhat less exciting with only one player since it’s not possible to operate the cannon and also move the tank.

The game is a bit rough, featuring jumpy camera snaps, a lack of transition animations, and some game freezing bugs. In combat, it’s very easy to get close to an enemy and begin a combo, only to have that combo land a couple of hits while the player passes through the enemy and punches out the other side, doing no damage. Turning around after passing through an enemy often causes the player to pass through the enemy again in the reverse direction, which makes basic combat tiresome. For some reason, the controls sometimes stick for a moment, preventing you from moving or turning around until you let off the controls and reengage.

There is a lot of dialogue, but the game’s lengthy – and fully-voiced – narrative is not improved over the original, which was quite poor. Also, the voiceover for the cutscenes is significantly quieter than the rest of the audio, with no way to adjust it. The game features great character designs and artwork, some nice (if repetitive) environment art that mixes 2D and 3D elements, flashy blood sprays and spell effects, and a moving soundtrack... all of which make for a great gameplay trailer, but the other issues ultimately make the minute-to-minute experience less compelling.

Dusty Raging Fist 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 studio previously developed several mobile games, as well as Dusty Revenge, a single-plane brawler that takes place after the events of Dusty Raging Fist.