As a big fan of arcade games, I’m always on the lookout for new Steam games that scratch that itch for quick pick-up-and-play action and score-based gameplay. I recently got a chance to check out Russian Subway Dogs before its release and after just a few days of play, I’m already addicted. If this were an actual arcade game, I’d likely already be out of quarters to put in the machine. Russian Subway Dogs isn’t for everyone but those who love arcade games should probably check it out. Even those who don’t normally like arcade games might be satisfied due to the inclusion of levels and objectives which actually allow the game to be beaten (it isn’t just a game where you try to reach your highest score).
Russian Subway Dogs is based on the true story of the actual street dogs in Russia who are smart enough to use the subway system to beg and commute to other locations. In this game, you play as one of those dogs whose main goal in life is just to keep its stomach full. To do so, you run up behind old women and bark to relieve them of their food (something the real street dogs of Russia apparently actually do). While just eating enough food will keep you alive, you can eat in style and earn more points by catching the food in the air or “cooking it” by scaring a person carrying vodka to drop their liquor on it (the alcohol explodes and can hurt your dog so it is both a blessing and a curse). Subsequent levels introduce new mechanics like different types of food, rival dogs (who will oftentimes steal the food you worked so hard to liberate), enemies, power-ups, and hazards. You will rarely go more than a few levels without some new mechanic being introduced to keep you on your toes.
Each level in Russian Subway Dogs has three semi-optional objectives to complete that will often challenge you to play the game differently. These usually have something to do with the most recent new game mechanic and can be anything from only eating vegetables to eliminating enough rival dogs. As I said, these are semi-optional but if you want to keep progressing through the levels you do have to complete most of them. I know games that force you to go back and replay levels in order to progress are the banes of some gamers’ existence but I personally don’t mind them as long as the levels are short like they are in this game. Russian Subway Dogs also includes an endless mode where you are simply trying to survive as long as you can and rack up as many points as possible. Since this game offers both a progression-based level mode and an endless mode, both arcade gamers and those who prefer to complete games can both enjoy Russian Subway Dogs.
I really enjoyed my time playing Russian Subway Dogs for this review and I plan to pick it back up again upon its final release on August 2. There’s just so much to like about the game from its absolutely adorable pixel art to the constant stream of new mechanics. The art style is a mix between pixel art and Soviet propaganda type art. As a fan of the aesthetics of both art styles, I unsurprisingly love the art in this game. The pixel art on the dogs is especially adorable. There are plenty of “dogs” to choose from including plenty of memes like the Gunshow “This Is Fine” dog (and they are all so cute). Be warned though, this game is cute but it quickly becomes pretty graphic if you aren’t able to feed your dog enough. The death scenes are both graphic and extremely sad to watch for any dog lover (especially the “This Is Fine” dog who is literally burned alive).
Adding to the atmosphere of the game is a pretty good soundtrack featuring both Soviet Russian style music and at least one track featuring barking dogs. The soundtrack comes from Peter Chapman (aka COINS) who did the Guacamelee! soundtrack and plenty of other indie game soundtracks. The only complaint I have with the sound is that is is somewhat repetitive as there are only a few tracks in the game.
Overall, Russian Subway Dogs is a pretty simple game that is easy to pick up. However, for a simplistic concept (scare people and catch their food) there is a surprising amount of depth as well. As I wrote earlier, you will usually only go a few levels before a new mechanic is introduced (or at the very least an already familiar mechanic will get a new wrinkle added to it). By the time you get to the third world, there are so many things to watch out for or that you can use to increase your score. I wouldn’t say the game ever gets super hard (I completed probably 75% of the levels I played in my first attempt and the rest only took a few extra tries to complete) but some of the objectives certainly are. Many of the objectives are very interesting like one that challenges you not to bark a single time and yet still feed your dog enough food (you need to change your playstyle to simply enticing bears to attack the old women for you). I love a game that keeps you on your toes and forces you to try new tactics in order to complete certain objectives.
The only real issue I have with Russian Subway Dogs is the length of the game. Based on my pace, I will probably be done with the campaign levels in just a few hours. Completing all of the challenges and achievements and enjoying the fun and addicting endless mode will add many more hours to that amount but at full price, the game might not be quite worth it for everyone. If you are a big arcade game fan that will get a lot of value out of the endless mode, I would certainly buy it but others who just sort of like the genre or prefer story-based games might want to wait for at least a slight sale. However, Russian Subway Dogs is a great arcade game that I definitely suggest playing at some point. Highly recommended.
Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Spooky Squid Games Inc. for the review copy of Russian Subway Dogs that was used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.