Review by Betelgeuse

"Beware of bounty hunter dog"

Ruff Trigger is an action/adventure platformer from Natsume, the creators of the hugely popular Harvest Moon series. In this game, you play the role of the best bounty hunter in the universe, a dog named Ruff Trigger. At the start of the game your boss, conveniently named The Boss, receives a job opportunity for you. The Vanocore Company recently came out with a series of synthetically made creatures called Piglots. The first shipment of them, which consisted of three cargo ships, has crash-landed on a planet called Endust, which is covered with innumerable pitfalls and monsters. Here's where Ruff comes in. The Vanocore Company calls on him and asks for help in recovering the Piglots from the planet's surface. After all, why should they risk their lives when they can get someone else to do it for them? And so Ruff Trigger, a fierce bounty hunter, must become a pet-sitter for a time.

The game has a very small learning curve. The controls are very basic and standard, for the most part. As far as controls go, there are only two hitches. The first of these is the aiming system. It can be a little bit difficult to get used to it at first, but once you understand how it works, it becomes second nature and you never even have to think about it again. To take aim at a target, you hold down the R1 button. Provided neither of you move, you can then fire at the enemy by pushing the square button. In order to lock onto the target so that you can strafe all around without losing sight of your foe, you must press and hold both the R1 and the L1 buttons simultaneously. It may seem simple, but it can be confusing for the first fifteen minutes or so. My other problem with the controls comes with the camera and its angles, or lack thereof. The camera can be controlled by you, but only in certain situations. There are some times when you cannot move the camera at all, and other times where you are very limited in exactly how you can move the camera. Granted, these places are, on the whole, few and far between, but that doesn't make them any less aggravating. In those places were you have free reign to move the camera however you like, the rotation on the camera is frustratingly slow.

While I enjoyed the game, I was a little bit put off by its shortness. There are eighteen stages in the game, all of varying degrees of difficulty. Each of these levels is very much straightforward. While there are no real side quests, there are a few things that will keep some gamers coming back for more. There are myriad objects for you to destroy from start to finish. These breakable objects provide for a sort of departure from the main story. At the end every stage, you are shown a rap sheet of how well you did in that level. One of the things listed on the screen is the percentage of the breakable objects that you found and destroyed. It can give you a greater sense of accomplishment by playing each stage until you have achieved a destruction rate of 100%. Also on the stage completion screen is displayed the number of Piglots you managed to save. In later stages, it is not mandatory that you rescue each and every Piglot. Littered throughout the game are small rotating disks called tokens. These are used to raise you rank, which allows you to purchase better weapons and armor. So for the perfectionists out there, here are some goals to reach towards: 100% Destruction Rate, every Piglot rescued, achieve the top rank, and have every weapon purchased.

I must say that I was very pleased to see that there was more than just one type of Piglot. I was even more pleased when I found that certain Piglots actually had some sort of practical, functional use. There are those Piglots that are simply there to be rescued and there are those which will actually help you in your quest. I found this to be a positive point of interest. The weapons too, I thought, were fun and original. All the guns were useful in their own way and had their own unique qualities. I can honestly say that I found each gun to have a particular point in the game where they were more effective than any other gun I could have used. In addition to using guns, Ruff can also hold his own in hand-to-hand combat. There are several different fighting techniques you can use depending on which combination of buttons you press. Like each of the guns, there is a time and place when using fighting techniques is appropriate and not appropriate.

The food of all Piglots is called the Vanocore Power Drink, or VPD. It has some strange effects, as Ruff will find out and later investigate. One such effect is that when Ruff drinks the stuff, he turns into a ferocious werewolf, capable of performing special attacks that he could never do while not under the influence of VPD. These Genetic Powers, as they are called, are very powerful and will prove to be immeasurably helpful if you choose to use them. Like his normal counterpart, werewolf Ruff can also perform hand-to-hand combat. The attacks are basically the same. The only difference is that werewolf Ruff is much stronger than normal Ruff is.

As I said before, there are a total of eighteen stages in the game. There are really only three types of stages. There's the standard level in which you go from point A to point B, killing, collecting, and rescuing everything in your way. Then there are stages which consist of you riding a motorcycle from point A to point B in a certain amount of time. Any crash, wrong turn, or other screw up will cost you time and likely result in your having to repeat the stage until you perfect the art of driving the too-fast-for-its-own-good motorcycle. There are only a handful of these stages, but they can get to be quite annoying after a while. The third kind of stage is a boss fight. Yes, single fights are numbered among the total number of stages in the game. Generally, these boss fights are very basic, requiring little direct combat. Rather than taking out a gun and tearing them to shreds, you perform certain actions in order to cause harm to the boss. These don't usually last for more than a few minutes and are pretty easy to win.

To make the game last a little bit longer, and to give more replay value, Ruff Trigger has eight minigames with which to entertain yourself when you don't feel like playing the story portion of the game. These eight minigames correspond to the eight different types of Piglots that you can find in the game. As you come across the different kinds of Piglots, the minigames related to them will become available to you. I rather enjoyed them, but I can see where some people would not care for them much.

As for the sound and the music, I wasn't impressed, but I didn't feel that it was necessarily lacking anything. The music isn't the greatest in the world, but then again there is worse stuff out there. The voices of the characters were suitable and the acting was passable. The actual sound effects of the game were pretty good, for the most part. Taken as a whole, the audio team was right on par.

For an action/adventure platformer, Ruff Trigger is a well-crafted game. It has some solid features, and it has a certain quality about it that is very unique, yet somehow familiar to fans of the genre. There are a few minor bugs and glitches that the team never noticed, but they are so small that most gamers probably would never even pick up on them if they weren't told about them. I would certainly recommend this game to anyone who is looking for a game that won't take five months to complete, but still wants to be challenged.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 07/30/07

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