Crazy Days of Rufus Review
3.0our score

Zombies! Millions of them! Rising from their graves and attacking the living. Normal life vanishes under a tidal onslaught of murderous corpses. Everything you hold dear is washed away by the unrelenting flood of the dead. Your values are put to the test. What will you do to survive? How will you choose to live? What really matters to you?

Crazy Days of Rufus, a side-scrolling zombie-’em-up from the makers of… er, nothing else so far as I’m aware. Anyway, this game tells the story of a crazy tramp called Rufus, framed by a corrupt regime and out to ah, you know what? Forget it. Watch the trailer.

Yes, that's a pixelly lady in a pixelly bikini sandwiched between two pixelly guns. We're through the looking glass, people.

Yes, that’s a pixelly lady in a pixelly bikini sandwiched between two pixelly guns. We’re through the looking glass, people.

Done? Okay, good. Once you’ve finished wondering what the hell happened to South Park these days, back to the game.

Humble beginnings. From which the game never really evolves.

Humble beginnings. From which the game never really evolves.

It’s a side-scrolling game in which you control loveable tramp Rufus as he kills zombies. Initially unarmed, he makes his way through semi-satirical pastiches of a USA redneck hinterland, using whatever he can find as a weapon (spoiler: mostly guns) to kill everything he meets.

Coming into it knowing even that much, I was already lowering my forehead into the weary cradle of my palm. That first paragraph up there, re-read that and replace ‘zombies’ with ‘computer games with zombies in them.’ That’s how I feel about zombie games. There are too many out there right now, and they are mostly nothing intelligent, good or original.

Rufus in no way breaks free from this herd, sadly. It’s a first attempt at computer game design, from what I gather. So although a great deal of time and effort has doubtless gone into it, it’s badly let down by weak level design, thin humour and limited gameplay.

It’s also irritatingly difficult. It might be a spike, to be fair, but it turns up five minutes into the first level. I’m clearly too old for this shit. It took me six attempts to get past the first helmeted zombie, but frankly? My usually insane persistence had already withered somewhat by the time I got that far.

Your first firearm comes from the hands of a backwoodsman in a Davy Crockett hat.

Your first firearm comes from the hands of a backwoodsman in a Davy Crockett hat.

Most of the arcadey side-scrollers I liked as a kid (e.g. Double Dragon, TMNT) had at least a level or two where you got to feel badass enough that there was a chance you could beat a boss. Not so here – fair enough, perhaps that’s realistic.

Nothing else about the game screams realism, though, from the cartoony atmosphere to the uneven writing. Your walking is unconnected from the ground. The weapons have no recoil or feeling of weight. Zombies can hurt you by flailing from some distance, your weightless and empty-feeling weapons need accuracy to connect that the graphics don’t deliver. A better healing mechanic, like portable medikits, might help. So would a faster walking speed, weapons that are entertaining to use, or some worthwhile opponents.

Perhaps there’s a gem of a game behind the juvenile humour and primitive sprites. And to be fair, it’s certainly nowhere near as bad as I was expecting from the trailer. Perhaps I’m just an awful reviewer, too lazy and incompetent to get my loosened teeth into it. If one gets one’s teeth into gems. Cut me some slack, trying to play this damn thing for two hours has softened my brain. I can’t even manage a coherent metaphor. Look at me, I’m a mess. So is this game, of course, so I guess we’re quits for now.

Hippies, Bikers, the Gov'mint - is there nothing the game/Rufus won't take a swipe at?

Hippies, Bikers, the Gov’mint – is there nothing the game/Rufus won’t take a swipe at?

It’s not without merit, in the sense that it’s large with a lot of detail in the environments, has a coherent art design and seems to function as it’s supposed to. The music is decent but relies on single samples looped endlessly. Rufus himself at least has a score of hand-crafted one-liners to spout, almost one for each zombie he meets. That’s love, being poured on with a ladle. It’s wasted, though; the one-liners are trite and tryhard, and only one in the forty or so I heard raised a smile.

(In passing, calling a hobo ‘an unlikely hero’ in the context of a zombie apocalypse scenario is misguided. Everyone knows that when zombies strike, a motley band of society’s misfits are our only possible salvation. This is the only outcome ever considered in fiction, ergo a hobo is the likeliest of all possible heroes.)

It’s still a game, at least, and I’ve seen things out there making that claim that aren’t. N8 Kolar Studios, I respectfully salute your efforts, but there isn’t enough here to ask for money, let alone to make the hair-raising claim that this is merely chapter one. For the rest of you, a single respectful salute is all you should give anyone offering you this game, if only to throw them off guard before punching them in the windpipe. It’s not worth the price of admission, although there’s a free demo here for car crash rubberneckers.

I'd pick the second option.

I’d pick the second option.

the author

Used to be a Doctor (Dr). Now is an actor (Ar), writer (Wr) and gamer (Gr), and would like to get all these abbreviations into general usage, because GrArWr is a much more interesting title to have on your bank card.