Nitrome's skill has always been in distilling the core mechanics of a game into something special, cutting down to the marrow-filled bones of a genre and then shaping them into a new sort of beast.
And that's exactly what it's done with Rustbucket. This is a roguelike that focuses in on a single idea - that, at their heart, turn-based dungeon crawlers are essentially puzzle games.
And it runs with that idea like a child frantically sprinting down a school corridor, joyously waving blunt scissors around.Okay, so how does it play?
Like a roguelike. Well, like a roguelike spinning around in Nitrome's chugging washing machine of brilliant ideas.
You play a helmet that's moving around a dungeon full of creatures and traps. You slide to move one square in a straight line, up, down, left, or right. When you move, all the monsters in the level move too.
Each monster has its own tick. Some will attack you as soon as you're next to them, others charge up their attacks over a certain number of moves. Some have armour, some are made of stone, and some jump multiple squares at once.
You only have one life, and a single hit will end your run. So you need to figure out how to stay one step ahead. Get surrounded and you're done for.
The turn-based beat of play means you get to consider each move, and that's where the puzzling comes in. It's like chess and a sliding blocks puzzle having a cuddle with a fantasy parody novel.
It's fair to say that Nitrome is back on form then?
Yes indeed. Rustbucket proves there are far more strings to the dev's bow than some people might think. It's funny, it's fun, and it'll make you scratch your head in all the right ways.
It might not have the depth of a true roguelike, and it could do with a little more content, but these are little gripes against what's a hugely enjoyable experience.
Rustbucket is the dungeon crawler done with all the cheeky aplomb that we've come to expect from Nitrome, and praise doesn't come much higher than that.