Every day, hundreds of stray animals roam the Moscow Metro; scouting for food as they try to survive. Not the brightest of premises, admittedly, but solid enough to build a game; and that’s what Spooky Squid did with Russian Subway Dogs.
Drawing from the experience they gained with indie platformer They Bleed Pixels, the duo from Toronto pieced together a title that already sounds like an instant classic. The question, though, is always the same: does this game have what it needs to impress? Let’s find out together!
Welcome Among The Russian Subway Dogs, Bitch!
The life of a metro puppy is indubitably harsh. Hungry as a lion, we’ll need to constantly swallow food if we want to keep breathing. This sets the stage for an array of horrible things, from scaring old ladies into dropping their groceries to stealing chocolate from the hands of a baby!
Fortunately, our pup has a plan. The hoomans appear to have a weak-point. If we manage to approach them from behind, a loud bark will be enough to have them toss their nutritious goodies in the air and run. At that point, the food’s only a few hops away!
We won’t have the station all to ourselves for long, though. In Russian Subway Dogs, keeping the competition in check is as important as stuffing our stomachs. Dobermans, poodles, bears, elks, and a whole host of animals all inhabit the same lines… which usually means only one thing: a war is brewing!
That’s when the vodka comes in handy. The bottles an alarmingly high percentage of the general population carry with them are flammable and will ignite as soon as they hit the ground. Land a few on top of your foes and they will be vanquished. Plus, you can use them to cook your food into a more filling version of itself!
Simple… Isn’t It?
To be completely sincere: not exactly! The mechanics of Russian Subway Dogs aren’t the most complex I’ve seen in an indie video-game – that’s for sure – but making them work together’s an entirely different thing. The level of precision required to progress often clashes with the high-octane experience this title offers.
Allow me to take a step back and elaborate: collecting food let’s us stay alive but is also our main source of points. In order to even finish a level, we’ll need to hit a minimum score within the allotted time. On top of that, new levels and characters are only unlocked by completing a series of secondary missions!
Cooking meals and catching them in mid-air – as well as killing enemies and achieving high combos – will yield more points; while dropping food on the floor or letting another animal get to it before us leads to penalties. In the midst of the action, perfectly hitting the mark can be more of a nuisance than a challenge.
As we sprint left and right to fill our bellies, while our cute character slides on the slimy station floors, barking at the right time becomes almost impossible. Hit the button too soon and the food will take off following unpredictable patterns; hit it too late and you will have wasted a chunk of your hunger bar for nothing.
Maybe Take It Down A Few Pegs?
Looking at Spooky Squid’s track record, I’m comfortable to say that this design choice was deliberate. They Bleed Pixels was extremely challenging and I think the devs wanted Russian Subway Dogs to feel the same. This isn’t an inherently bad thing, although I’m sure the game will inevitably put some people off!
Don’t get me wrong: getting those huge multipliers when you manage to juggle things right is pretty damn fun but the whole trial and error that comes before it has the potential to wreck your nerves. You will fail; you will restart a level only a few seconds in and sometimes you will feel the need to rage-quit and do something else.
Russian Subway Dogs offers no in-between: either you excel or you suck at it. The indie title sets us on track for an age-old debate; a question many have tried to answer before: should games purposely be made easy to beat so as to appeal to a larger audience?
The answer is obviously negative, even though they benefit from being accessible to everybody. The solution is often as easy as adding a difficulty selection screen. Here, a casual mode where score requirements are lower could make Russian Subway Dogs suitable for everyone; while some challenges that can only be completed at higher levels keep us trying to do better!
Is Russian Subway Dogs An Instant Buy?
There’s no doubt that this is a solid indie title. I decided to focus on the cons simply because the “pros” list would have been too long to include in the article. Russian Subway Dogs comes with an extremely cute art-style, a beautiful soundtrack by Peter Chapman, tons of levels, and a lot of replayability!
That said, the final choice ultimately comes down to your personal preferences. If you don’t mind going through the same level over and over as you try to rake in enough points to progress, jump to the game’s Steam page and add it to your collection right now.
Alternatively, you can always wait a bit and see if anything changes!