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An interesting find

October 19, 2009

I recently stumbled across an interesting game from independent game studio, Wolfire. The game, Lugaru, is a 3D fighter where the player is tasked with controlling a ninja rabbit through enemy-filled environments and clearing out the baddies. A few things turned me off from the game originally, but I soon found that there’s a lot to like about this clever fighter.

Don't pick a fight with this guy

I’m not exactly a huge fan of the fighting genre. Mashing buttons furiously in hopes of  bursting more brain cells than your opponent isn’t really my idea of a fun time. So when I read this off of the Lugaru description: “Instead of relying on confusing button combinations to perform moves, Lugaru’s moves are all logical and context sensitive” I was instantly intrigued. The fighting system in Lugaru is something that seems like it should have been thought up a long time ago, before this happened. So my curiosity pulled me in, and I downloaded the demo.

Woah, sweet.

Upon booting up the game, I was greeted with a straightforward, bordering on bland title screen. I created a new file, and after barely making it through the long and awkward tutorial I was prompted to choose a difficulty setting; The choices were “Easier”, “Difficult” and “Insane”. I always choose the middle difficulty, not wanting to be hand-held or tortured, so I chose difficult. This turned out to be a mistake, as I soon found out. So, I hadn’t had the greatest of introductions to the world of Lugaru, but as every good gamer knows, the quality of a game ultimately rests in the gameplay itself, and this is especially the case with Lugaru. (From what I’ve heard, the tutorial in the sequel to this game, Overgrowth, is being integrated into the gameplay. Awesome!)

Lugaru Screenshot #14

Yeah, you can jump like a gazillion feet in this game. It's too cool.

I expected to be immediately thrust into some arena, but what I got instead was a peaceful village, free of any fighting. I began meeting the characters and interacting with friends in a manor reminiscent of The Legend Of Zelda’s Kokiri forest. This offered a fantastic opportunity to get immersed in the world, get a hang of the controls, and actually develop some sentiment towards your bunny-brethren. That made it all the more difficult when the entire village was slaughtered. Even though the description of the game included the fact that the whole village was damned from the start, I still cared for it. With a fowl vengeance on my mind, I set out to get into the meat of the game: kicking the crap out of woodland critters. The combat in Lugaru consists of a single major attack button, a jump, and a duck. That’s it (nearly, at least). After playing for a bit, I think I can safely say that that’s all you need. Combinations of these functions can have you’r character doing fast or slow attacks, jumping off of walls, dive-tackling enemies, stealth killing, turning an enemy’s attacks against him, and even leaping forward like a bullet train gone off-rails. Getting into the groove of the combat can be a thrilling thing, considering the large number of ways to attack enemies, and the number of scenarios (sentries, wandering enemies, or even guys who can run off to warn a horde of you’r arrival). I did find it a bit tricky to get a hang of the combat system, mainly because enemies are quick. Very quick. You have to have a tight reaction time, and be constantly aware of what’s coming next. This may be a shock to some people, who are used to other things in a fighter, but I found it very engaging.

Lugaru Screenshot #7

Even weapons manage to make their way into Lugaru

Lugaru isn’t a perfect game, but it’s a drastic new take on fighting games, and for the most part it pays off. I can only imagine what great improvements and additions are going to make their way into the sequel. Lugaru is currently $20, but there is a free demo, and I strongly recommend that you at least give it a shot, even if you don’t end up going nuts over it. While you’re checking that out, I suggest taking a glance at the Wolfire blog, because there’s a lot of interesting information on game design and Overgrowth. It may not be a revolution in game design, but I’d say that it’s the start of something great.

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