Developer(s) – Gory Details
Publisher(s) – Gory Details
Designer(s) – Chris Seavor
PEGI – Not rated (some horror elements)
Released in 2018 and designed by the lead programmer of Conker’s Bad Fur Day Chris Seavor, The unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup is an open-ended puzzle game following a robotic dog named Rusty trying to find his way home through a wonderfully dark and dank 2D world. This game is an example of how I came into an indie title completely unprepared for what it had in store, and I was pleasantly surprised with the end result.
Graphics – 8/10
The game is set in a steampunk-inspired world made up of cogs and machinery. It bears somewhat of a resemblance to games like SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist, but with a far more surreal and compellingly bleak atmosphere. Darkness follows the player character everywhere with few specks of light made available to players to activate along the way in order to guide Rusty throughout each stage. The soundtrack is also suitably creepy to go along with the game’s settings. The environments, in particular, made me wonder about the world’s backstory and how it was created, and who created it in a similar manner to what Shadow of the Colossus did; it’s almost a character in and of itself.
Gameplay – 8.5/10
Rusty Pup relies heavily on the player’s initiative in order to solve what is at times mind-bending challenging puzzles. Players must make use of light in each stage as well as robots that can be used to temporarily stop time and guide Rusty through certain areas. There’s also a small world-building element, whereby players must set up platforms for Rusty to follow in order to access otherwise impassable areas or to break falls that Rusty would otherwise not be able to survive. This mechanic can also be used to the detriment of NPCs by setting up traps for them. Aesthetically, it takes influence from the likes of Lemmings and Flockers, but it offers an entirely different experience from the aforementioned games that, as I said, was not prepared for in the slightest. It can take some patience to get into, as it’s a game unlike any other, but once the player figures out the core mechanics, it makes for a very enjoyable and mystifying experience.
Controls – 10/10
A simple point-and-click game by design, there are no issues with the controls whatsoever. It can be played either on PC or on iOS and for both platforms, the game worlds out just fine. It may offer a different experience if the game was ever ported to conventional consoles, but it wouldn’t create anywhere near enough of a problem for it to render the game unplayable. If Plants Vs Zombies can be ported to consoles, this game certainly can be as well.
Lifespan – 8/10
The base game can be made to last a minimum of 20 hours, but to complete the game to 100% will take a fair bit of additional time. There is also DLC planned for the game in the future, so this will further add to the game’s lifespan in turn. But ostensibly, to make a puzzle game last for the amount of time it does is an impressive feat in any case, with or without DLC, and there would certainly be scope to expand the series at a later date given how potentially extensive the series’ mythology is.
Storyline – 7/10
The game’s story follows Rusty Pup, a mechanic dog on a single wheel who has apparently been flushed down a drain prior to the start of the game, with ambiguity about whether or not he fell down or if someone or something pushed him down there. Alone, but with an optimistic attitude, he resolves to find his way out of the steampunk labyrinth and make it back home. The game’s story is as ominous and as wonderfully dark as its settings, with a lot of mystery surrounding how Rusty got to this stage in the first place, and with how wistful he sounds at times in stark contrast to the foreboding situation he finds himself in. All characters, including Rusty, speak in rhyme, which again adds to this contrast; seemingly carefree, yet obviously in a terrible situation.
Originality – 9/10
Especially over the last gaming generation, coming across a unique indie title is becoming exceedingly difficult, with me looking for unique settings, unique gameplay, unique control scheme, and unique story. But much to my delight, this game ticks all the boxes flawlessly. After having interviewed Chris Seavor himself:
It became obvious to me that his creative talent was nurtured during his time at Rare, and that having played Rusty Pup, he has demonstrated that he is certainly as capable as Rare’s most standout alumni, such as Gregg Mayles, Kevin Bayliss, Martin Hollis, David Doak, etc, of creating wonderfully weird and delightfully fun games to play as the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark.
Overall, The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup is an unbelievably well thought out, and compelling title that’s every bit as enjoyable to play as any top indie title and I can’t recommend it enough. To me, it’s no wonder why Chris Seavor is most proud of Rusty Pup, as, in my opinion, it’s his best project to date.