Lugaru: The Rabbit’s Foot is nothing if not an aesthetically odd game. It’s strangely anthropomorphic rabbit-like characters come dangerously close to earning this game the nickname “Battle Furries.” Freaky art design aside, Lugaru is a surprisingly intense action game that features a fighting system that is surprisingly deep and remarkably precise. It’s too bad that a few frustrating design choices taint the experience and prevent Lugaru from transcending to a must-buy, indie classic.
As mentioned before, Lugaru is a fighting-focused action game starring a human-shaped, bunny-textured…thing…named Jack as he seeks revenge for the slaughter of his peaceful village. It seems amazingly contrived, but some scenes, particularly when Jack returns to the destroyed village, are oddly poignant. Perhaps we’ve grown weary of feeling bad for humans, but when that village was covered in bunny blood I was sad. Lugaru squanders this opportunity though, and the rest of the game proceeds as a run-of-the-mill revenge story and takes little advantage of the uniqueness of its characters. The promise shown in the first act is gone minutes later.
Story is not the reason you’re going to be playing this game, though. The piece de resistance of Lugaru is the unique and free-flowing combat system. Combat is simple in that there are only a few different moves to master, but also infinitely deep as the true depth comes from timing and skillful execution. There are standard punches and kicks, but the real innovation is in the great counters which easily allow the player to grab an enemies limb during an attack for a quick riposte.
In one-on-one situations, the combat works great. It’s a fast-paced game of timing and prediction as you try to figure out when your opponent is going to strike next. When things get more intense, though, the combat doesn’t hold up as well. With two enemies at once, it’s quite difficult to survive, and with three enemies it’s borderline impossible. Maybe that’s the way it should be, realistic, but in a game it’s extremely obnoxious to get 75 percent of the way through a level, picking off enemies one-by-one only to get ransacked by the last three remaining. Because when it happens, it’s all over.
Thus players have to make very sure to be discreet and careful when choosing their battles. Lugaru becomes something of a stealth game when more difficult levels come up (it reminded me a bit of Tenchu) with players quietly circling the level looking for some lone prey to pick off quietly.
To help you stay quiet and take enemies out quickly, Lugaru has a few different weapons which can aid you. The most useful is the knife, which can be used as a slashing weapon, and also as a thrown weapon that can often kill an enemy instantly. Leading to a morosely satisfying conclusion as you walk up to your fallen enemy and pull the knife out of their chest.
When played casually, Lugaru’s faults are easy to overlook, and it’s hard not to enjoy this unique actioner. Any play session that lasts longer than twenty minutes though is likely to end in keyboard smashing frustration as you get slowly pounded to death by multiple enemies.
Lugaru has a solid premise going, but ultimately doesn’t live up to its potential. The combat lacks fine-tuning, and the story is a limp excuse for gameplay, but the framework of a great game is here. Lugaru: The Rabbit’s Foot isn’t quite there, but I will say that I hope we see a Lugaru 2, because I’m eager to see what a few refinements to the system could add.