When I initially began this review, I had a very poor outlook on Techtonic Games’ new runner, Bust-n-Rush. I was going to lambaste it’s shortcomings, laugh at it’s efforts, and completely ignore anything it did correctly. In short, I was going to call Bust-n-Rush a bad game.
I was wrong.
First, let’s look at what Bust-n-Rush actually is. The devloper bills it as “a fast paced 3D arcade runner that puts you in the shoes of the armored Juggernaut-like hero Kovo.” Sounds like a neat little game, actually. Further reading reveals that the reason Kovo is busting n rushing is because a satellite allegedly dropped a rock on his best friend. A pink flamingo. Named Paco. Well, you can’t win ‘em all.
At first, I was going to berate Bust-n-Rush for not including any sort of actual story. I thought it lazy on the part of the developers. But the more I played, it began to occur to me: why does it need a story? Didn’t I used to have hours of fun in Unreal Tournament? Don’t I waste hours in Tribes: Ascend now? I realized that certain games don’t need a story. It just gets in the way of what you came to do: break stuff.
Both in my initial judgement and now, I found that BnR‘s gameplay is sterling. You start it up, and within seconds, you are off and running. You are meant to crash into many things in BnR: blue destructible objects, meteors, even little things that look like R.O.B. the Robot. Each successive Bust adds to your combo, but there are things that will hamper your progress – nearly all of them red. Hit enough of these objects, and you’ll find yourself getting low on health. You can heal yourself with the glowing blue gems called “Scorb”, but the best defense is quick reflexes and a keen eye.
Another instance of my initial ignorance was that I previously assumed the game to be quite shallow. You boot it up, you run for a bit, and then you exit. Where is the lasting appeal? But what I mistook for shallowness was merely the game’s subtle pacing. As you run along you’ll notice certain items that don’t pop up as often – grabbing those items begins a mission. When you play the game for the first time, it isn’t very forgiving in telling you exactly what certain things are (what’s an “indestructible”? How do I destroy a ship?), but you’ll learn soon enough. The fact that missions are picked up on the fly is one of the slickest things I have seen lately, and it’s a ridiculously clever way of handling such a thing.
This is one of the ways that Bust-n-Rush keeps you coming back for more. One of my missions was to bust 6 meteors. I had smashed through 5, and was about to pulverize the last one, when I mis-timed a jump and fell into the inky blackness below. The speed in this game is so addictive and rewarding, I simply had to keep going. And going. And going. One of the other things that really snuck up on me about BnR is just how deep into this game one can get. I found myself staying up several hours later than I had meant to on several occasions simply because I just had to complete a mission, or beat my score, or go farther than I ever had. Perhaps this game should come with a warning label on the box to warn others of just how much time you’ll lose.
All is not rosy in Kovo’s land, though. For all the parts of this game that are hit just right, there are a few sour notes. One of the things that BnR gets marks off for is introducing a new player to the game. In the settings there is no indicator of what the control scheme is. As it stands for me right now, I’m using WASD to move, and spacebar to jump. If I’m missing out on a key command, there’s no way to know. Poor form.Another shortcoming is the friend system. I understand that not every game can be on Steam, or Origin, or even Desura. But for a game with a leaderboard and the ability to challenge friends, having it be on a big distribution platform would only serve to make things easier. As it stands now, multiplayer can be fun, but one does have to jump through a few hoops just to play with someone else. Having played this on the PC, I cannot say as to how this will work on the iPad or Android tablets, but I do hope a better solution comes along. [Update: After being sent an updated version of the game, I can happily report that not only is there a tutorial for new members, but the soon-to-be-released Bust-A-Friend system is shaping up nicely.]
Imagine that you are having one of the best rounds of this game in recent memory. You’re are running at lightning speed, collecting more, and dodging better than ever before. First place on the leaderboard is in sight! And then, without warning, you fall through the level. Game over. This is undoubtedly the biggest flaw of Bust-n-Rush, and it’s pretty ugly, too. In a game where your jumps must be timed perfectly, and every minute movement counts, the inability of the game to place solid ground where solid ground simply must be is a major deal-breaker. It’s frustrating enough to make me exit the game. Granted, I’ll probably start it back up a few hours later, but if this issue persists, I can’t say it’ll remain installed for long. [Update: After completing an extended playthrough with the new build of the game, you'll be pleased to know that Kovo will now no longer fall through the level for no reason. Hooray!]
So, as you can tell by now, Bust-n-Rush does break a few conventions. It doesn’t have a story because it doesn’t need one. Levels don’t have a beginning and end, because it would only serve to stop the action.
It doesn’t even tell you what the controls or names of everything are – but you’ll be able to figure it out pretty darn quickly. What we’re left with then is a stripped down, pick-up-and-play game that is some of the most fun I’ve had in awhile. It’s the kind of fun that grabs you and doesn’t let you go.
[Note: After being sent an updated version of the game, the review score has been altered to reflect the new quality. Also, I'd like to extend my personal thanks to Ian and Scott from Techtonic Games for being so helpful.]