Rusted Moss Review – A Metroidvania with a Hook

    Title: Rusted Moss
    Developer: faxdoc, happysquared, sunnydaze
    Release Date: April 12, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Playism
    Genre: Metroidvania

Metroidvania is a genre that has become a staple in the industry, with multiple indie titles exploring its possibilities. Rusted Moss is one such example, adding a grappling hook to the exploration and some quality-of-life features allowing players to thoroughly mold the game’s difficulty.

Rusted Moss tells the story of a changeling called Fern. After living among the humans for years, she destroyed their facilities and decided to end the Age of Men. But, according to the fairies, this is just part of a natural cycle: the world history moves between eras when humanity rules and when the fae-folk and their magic take over.

However, the fairy queen, Titania, has been cut into multiple pieces, and humans known as “witches” have some of those. So it’s up to Fern to look for those parts as she explores various areas with a shady eyeball called Puck by her side. She rescued this individual from the human labs, and they quickly became companions on this journey before the game started.

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Rusted Moss has an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic setting, presenting a world where magic is becoming more common while advanced technology is in decadence. However, the plot mostly throws the player around, as even the story description I made for this text comes from details learned after finishing a good portion of the journey rather than something the player sees in action.

As a Metroidvania, Rusted Moss has an interconnected map the player must explore in detail. Many perils revolve around traversing the maps as they feature spikes, precipices, and areas that are hard to reach unless you master some techniques.

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The biggest traversal tool the player should master is the grappling hook. It allows Fern to stay attached to fairy moss, a vegetation spread around the levels. Then, by balancing from one side to another, you can gain momentum and move to the next point. One limitation is that, as far as basic rules go, you can’t use them consecutively, so it’s wise to avoid putting Fern in a compromising position that may lead to her death.

The player must also understand the unique traversal features of each area. For example, there’s a place where the wind carries Fern around, affecting all kinds of movements, such as the grappling hook; in another, she can fly but has to deal with beams forcing her to deadly precipices. Some areas may have some goo you should pass through as soon as possible as exposure is lethal or a liquid that demands you to look for breathing respites.

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Bosses will also require this learning process, as platform positioning demands clever, precise usage of the tools you have. In addition, their attack patterns cover broad areas, which makes them somewhat hard to avoid, especially for players unused to action games. Finally, without understanding your movement options, they may be practically impossible.

Rusted Moss offers detailed difficulty settings for different people who may be interested in the game. There are three options before starting the game: Normal, Flexible, and Speedrun. The first is the intended difficulty, while Speedrun assists players aiming to be the fastest at clearing the game by adding an in-game timer and removing the story bits to make it proceed smoothly.

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The Flexible option adds an “Accessibility” menu to the game, allowing players to pick some add-ons that can significantly impact the difficulty. The first feature the player may enable is an adaptive difficulty mode, which makes the game easier whenever Fern dies. Players can turn it on or off or even directly pick the best choice for their experience in a “custom adaptive” setting.

A game speed option allows players to make it slower (up to half the usual speed) if they need extra time to react to enemies’ attack patterns. There’s also an aim assist that facilitates hitting enemies. All these options may be considered nothing more than difficulty adjustments, but the other three features are closer to cheats.

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Infinite MP removes the skill cost limitation, meaning players can reuse them whenever they want by turning this feature on. These skills include grenades (a handy item against shielded enemies) and healing, which can save the player in a pinch.

Invincibility means you never even take damage from attacks, which I consider the biggest cheat out of them. It removes any risks and consequences of playing wrong in one go, making battles pointless displays of your unwarranted might. It may be helpful to avoid replaying a big area one time, but it’s one thing I can’t recommend.

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Finally, the flying option makes it much easier to traverse through all areas. By picking it, you remove the platforming difficulty from the game, a pillar of the experience. However, enemies are clever enough to follow you, so battles keep you on edge. Boss battles may not be as complicated with this choice enabled, but they still demand sharp reflexes to avoid taking damage.

All these options at the player’s disposal make the game experience easy to mold. The game’s intended difficulty is an option from the start, but people can also explore it with the fixes for most points of contention a single pick away. These user-oriented features let players not so used to action games pick the learning curve they feel more comfortable with.

Another feature of Rusted Moss is the level editor. You can create your stages and share them through Steam Workshop or play some made by others. The system currently has a bug that makes these stages start playing before you click on play, but other than that, it offers enough options to make some clever (or mean-spirited) stages according to the players’ creative minds.

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Rusted Moss is an enjoyable Metroidvania with clever level designs and an intriguing world concept. Traversal with a grappling hook ends up being a tricky but satisfying mechanic. There’s also a comprehensive list of “difficulty changers” that can even break the game’s challenges entirely if the player wants. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone looking to swing into this niche genre.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.