Platformers a commonly known for the fast paced, precise, pure gameplay action they bring to the living room. However, where they usually stumble is their inability to differentiate themselves from the vast amount of similar titles. On Rusty Trails attempts to stand out from the rest by introducing a different take on the genre. Unfortunately, on the gameplay side, the novelty of witching costumes and ability to stick to walls wears off relatively quickly. Where On Rusty Trails makes its biggest impact is in its ability to tell a realistic story about societal division through a dark but charming environmental theme with very few lines of dialogue.
The story begins as our protagonist, a rusty polyhedron called Elvis, has his humble home destroyed by what seems to be acidic balls raining from the sky. The player takes on the role of Elvis as he ventures off into the various lands of his metallic world in order to claim his home insurance and resume his normal life. Regrettably for Elvis, his world is made up off traps and moving platforms that can destroy him at any instant. By doing precise jumps and sticking on any side of the two dimensional blocks, the players must maneuver their way around various death traps around world. Fortunately, Elvis finds a blue monster’s suit on his path that he can strategically use to sneak by certain pitfalls. Not so fortunately for him, there are also deathly areas specifically targeted to blue monsters. Therefore, players must quickly toggle the monster suit to traverse safely through this dangerous world.
Tthe precise jumping, traversal of platforms from all different sides and, costume switching all sum up for an entertaining platform experience. However, On Rusty Trails runs into a content problem. With a game like this, too little content can cause the experience to be short lived while too much content can affect the freshness and novelty of the core gameplay well before the game is even over - unless they find a way to evolve. Although game progression does offer new levels of difficulty and mixes up the dangerous platforms, the player's abilities are discovered in the first few minutes of the of the game’s tens of stages.
In terms of difficulty, On Rusty Trails allows the players to set their own difficulty. There are various checkpoints scattered throughout each of the levels to help to alleviate the frustration of constantly dying on the various deathtraps. In order to activate those checkpoints, Elvis must collect pyramid tokens found throughout the levels. At the end of each level, a scoreboard displays the amount of tokens collected and not used, as well as the player’s completion time. Speed runners can aim for the fastest finish time while the completionist can aim to collect all the pyramid tokens which increases the difficulty. Since checkpoints are instantly triggered by just walking by them with a token, a minor but frequent annoyance occurs when the player accidentally falls on a conveniently placed checkpoint and activates it, completely ruining the completion run.
Where On Rusty Trails makes its mark with its ability to tell a story. The cute characters and polished rusty, cartoony world aid in establishing the fun but dark tone of the game. Dark, colorful palettes and damp atmosphere creates a sense of conflict occurring in the background. The game’s mellow techno soundtrack and stormy sound effects add to the well-established theme.
The game's storytelling ability requires the player to focus on events that occur in the background. Some areas show billboard signs, protests, and bullying events that highlights the seclusion of blue monsters in the rusty world. On the other hand, there are areas where you can feel the harmony and peace between the polyhedron metallic minions and the outcast blue monsters. In order to understand the origin of the conflict, Elvis can encounter hidden rooms that show glimpses of the beginning of the conflict. The game manages to include an interesting narrative without interrupting the slick platforming mechanics.
On Rusty Trails is a fully fleshed platforming experience. It provides precise, intuitive, and fast paced mechanics that we have come to love from the genre. Despite falling short on providing unique and long lasting gameplay mechanics, the well-designed environment and background narrative does set it apart from the vast pool of platformers available. If you are a player that enjoys exploring while maneuvering your way through a dangerous platforming world, then On Rusty Trails is sure to deliver a memorable experience.