6.0 - [Good]
Developer: Wolfire Games
Reviewed on: PC
ESRB rating: N/A
BMR rating: T (Blood, Violence)
Advanced, innovative combat system - Strategic depth prolongs replay value - Rad martial arts
Not So Good Points:
Nothing to do but the core fighting - Frustration can seep into the unforgiving fights - Muddy, unattractive graphics - Glitches break up the action - Almost nonexistent music - Disturbing, violent rabbits
Lugaru HD is without a doubt one of the strangest games I've ever played. Developed by the tiny independent studio Wolfire Games, it has little in the ways of production values and, at first glance, seems kind of worthless. But past the unattractive exterior is a deep game that will most likely surprise you in both good and bad ways. The simple plot revolves around a villager named Turner who loses his family and friends to a band of murderous raiders, and thus goes on a revenge-bent killing spree that ventures into some dark territory. What makes the whole experience disconcertingly surreal is the fact that nearly the entire cast is built up of anthropomorphic bunnies with disturbingly human-like proportions. And let me tell you, these bunnies can fight. It's tough to get a handle on the unorthodox combat system, and your first attempts might yield frustration. After learning the ebbs and flows of timing counters and strikes, however, the action can become fast and intense. There are three types of weapons in the game (knives, swords, and bo staffs), but almost all of your time will be spent wielding the knife or duking it out bare-pawed. Obtained items deal serious damage, but can be disarmed with a clever counter or solid blow, which sends everyone scrambling to recover the lost weapon and gain the edge in a fight. Taking on too many enemies at once can be your downfall, but a sharp mind and responsive controls guarantee that skill overcomes almost any odds. At its best, Lugaru HD becomes a whirlwind of awesome karate techniques as Turner throws opponents over his back, blocks their incoming fists, and wall-jump-kicks them in the head, all without taking damage. It's an unconventional combat system like no other, but it can be repetitive and exasperating at times, especially when stealth is involved. The satisfaction lies in that every minute spent practicing is a step closer to bunny fung fu perfection, and results can be dramatic in just a few hours of play.
The story mode's length completely depends on your competence level, but certainly is short once you get the hang of things. Throughout the course of the adventure, you will stab rabbits with your knife (and pull out the blade dripping with blood), slit the throats of sleeping bandits in the night, and wipe out a village of wolves that may or may not contain women and children. The humorless tone, animal characters, and creepily hollow music make it even more disturbing, but it's true that Lugaru HD once again stands out from the crowd. Still, none of these acts of violence are very graphic due to the blocky visuals and highly un-cinematic presentation. The game is certainly not a looker, and there are some very shaky physics and camera jerks that regularly break up the flow. There's an overall feeling of low quality that can be mostly forgiven considering that the entire project was essentially constructed by a single person (an incredible feat, I might add), but it's present nonetheless. But the underlying mechanics are sound, and it's a good thing they're so finely honed, as that's quite simply all there is to the game. A bunch of challenge maps that are just as fun as the campaign missions will keep you going for a while, and you can raise or lower the difficulty depending on your preference, but that's pretty much all you'll get. It's a testament to the core gameplay that it continues to entertain well after the story mode is completed, and its blend of unusual ideas should be remembered and learned from in the future. The price runs at a mere $10, but even though it goes without saying, I'll say it anyway: Lugaru HD is not for everyone. It's weird, unsettling, complex, and ugly along with being brilliant and fun, and should be approached with the same amount of caution a knife-wielding bunny deserves.