Dusty Raging Fist
Switch version tested
Review code provided
Dusty Raging Fist is an ambitious side scroller that wears its inspirations on its sleeve with mixed results. Serving as a prequel to Dusty Revenge, we meet Dusty, Kitsune and Darg, after a young boy comes to them asking for help. Children are disappearing and a dark moon is rising to signal the return of an evil power that will threaten all if our heroes can’t stop it in time. To do this they will need to travel across the land and harness the power of the elements if they hope to have any chance of success.
So begins a couple of hours of side-scrolling, combat-heavy adventuring filled with enemies ranging from ninjas, commandos, mechs, snipers and a range of boss battles all set to test your abilities. Dusty Raging Fist features a lavish and beautiful hand-drawn art style with a wide range of locations to travel through. The music score is varied and well designed to match each setting and some impressive voice acting is on hand providing a high level of personality to each of our heroes.
Each character feels distinctive from each other, Dusty is an all-rounder, Kitsune is a quick and nimble ninja-like warrior with Darg being the heavy hitter of the group. Throughout each level there are hidden chests that can be located with a bit of exploration, these chests will reward you with some generous doses of XP, red orbs and especially crystals. Collect 3 crystals of the same type to boost your stats. Red will increase your health bar, blue for your support abilities and green for summoning ability. If you miss any of these chests and feel the need to fully upgrade your characters then you can revisit them at any time via level select.
Unfortunately, that is where the positives end and the ambition of the Dusty Raging Fist runs afoul of poor execution. Taking obvious inspiration (and rightfully so) from some of our favourites such as Golden Axe, Dust: An Elysian Tail and even Devil May Cry, we are provided with a messy mix of mechanics that just fail to gel into a fluid gameplay experience. The combat features heavy and light attacks, ranged attacks, double jumps and power abilities. Our main hero Dusty for example can use his fiery fists, a handy oversized sword or twin revolvers to dispatch his enemies with a dash and roll ability serving as a defence in place of traditional blocking. As you take enemies down you will be awarded golden XP orbs which you can use to manually level up your character and unlock new eccentric combos with an impressive selection on hand.
The controls feel very clunky and unresponsive so pulling off these combos effectively is a game in itself. When they do work, they are very effective in combat and make a clear difference, but the unreliability of the input and response makes fighting wave after wave of enemies a chore. Coupled with the severe recovery rate you suffer from taking a hit you can often find yourself locked into multi-hits from a group of enemies. Boss battles feature heavily and usually consist of beefed-up baddies with multiple health bars, as each bar is depleted you are rewarded with some health as the boss changes phase and comes at you with an extra bunch of attack patterns. Some of these encounters we found to be fun but the first glitched twice, freezing in place and causing damage whenever our character got near forcing the need to die and restart the battle twice before it played through without incident.
Abilities are also on hand, as you progress you unlock elemental abilities, Fire, Ice, Lighting and Wind become available, these boost your regular attacks with their respective power and provide a special ability that damages all enemies on screen with a click of the R stick. These abilities are very powerful and presented in a screen-filling animation that looks impressive.
Support is on offer in the form of a sniper (press R) and heavy artillery (press L) allies. As you engage in combat you will fill a blue bar above your health meter indicating you can use these abilities. The sniper is handy for picking off pesky enemy snipers and grenadiers as well as shooting hidden items to gain you a little extra XP or health regen. Heavy artillery deals big damage and is handy for clearing out groups of enemies and clearing paths as you progress. These abilities come in handy but also happen in real time, trying to aim with the left stick and line up sniper shots with unresponsive controls as enemies surround you can sometimes do more harm than good.
As mentioned previously the controls leave something to be desired. Most combo’s tended to fail due to input not registering, the left to right movement would often delay or just not respond at all causing unnecessary deaths during the more traditional platforming sections souring the whole experience. The story is basic but passable but in handheld mode the small text was a struggle to read and if you are playing with the volume down low it would be a real struggle to follow what’s going on.
With so much potential it is a shame to see what could have been a great title reduced to something that is almost unplayable and riddled with frustration. PD Design Studios clearly know what they want to achieve and credit where it’s due, the overall presentation of Dusty Raging Fist is sublime. A slick combo-heavy combat system is on hand in principle for a group of characters with varying fighting styles. 3 Player couch CO-OP features and is exactly what is needed for a title like this, but the poor controls, frustratingly bad gameplay and buggy bosses just ruin the experience. Most of these issues could be fixed with a patch or two but should we have to rely on patches to make a game playable?
Beard Score: 3.5/10
Nintendo Switch Essentials:
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: 14/03/2019
No. of Players: 1- 3
Category: Side-Scrolling, Action, Arcade
Publisher: PD Design Studio
Download link: eShop