GamingReview: Rusted Moss

Review: Rusted Moss


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The moment that Rusted Moss clicked for me came about halfway through. I had been throwing myself at a particularly difficult platforming section for the last thirty minutes and my sanity was hanging on by a thread. The clock was ticking closer to the end of the night and I had work in the morning. As I dropped down into a pit of death yet again, I made the decision that no matter the time, I would beat this. It didn’t matter how late it got. I would win.

I don’t willingly suffer sleep deprivation for many games but Rusted Moss hits on that particular level of difficulty that keeps you coming back. You may end up grinding your teeth into dust but you’ll still keep loading it up. It’s beautiful, it’s infuriating and it’s fun. While there are a few missteps here and there, one of which does threaten to tip the frustration too far, Rusted Moss is a wonderfully put together game, which has no doubt shaved years off my life.

Rusted Moss - Swinging

Push Me, Pull Me

Rusted Moss is a metroidvania but, unusually, doesn’t have much in the way of movement upgrades. Instead, it takes one single mechanic and pushes it as far as it can possibly go. The mechanic in question is a grappling hook, which can cling to mossy areas of the map. Well, technically it’s a little Fae blob called Puck that grapples for you, but that’s not important right now. Rusted Moss endeavours to make its physics as realistic as possible, so things like momentum come into play. The start of your swing is often as important as the end as Rusted Moss pulls no punches. You time things perfectly or you die. Guess whose timing often wasn’t up to par?

It’s where most of Rusted Moss‘s high difficulty comes from and, to be honest, I’m in two minds about it. On the one hand, it makes for some brilliant movement puzzles. There’s often the need to thread a very fine needle and the lack of movement upgrades means that the only obstacle is your own skill. It created a pleasing progression, as new areas opened up due to me becoming more comfortable with the mechanics rather than just adding a new tool to my belt. What’s more, there are a handful of optional challenges throughout that push the mechanics to their absolute max and conquering these was quite the endorphin rush.

However, any time you start adding realistic physics into video games, you’re going to get one unpleasant side-effect: unpredictability. Throwing grapples out is often a snap decision and in those moments it’s not always clear if you’re going to swing across a chasm or faceplant into spikey death at the bottom of it. It’s compounded by the fact that you can only swing once before landing, so you can’t course correct. All this makes backtracking through levels – a necessity of the genre mind you – very frustrating, as you have to solve all the movement puzzles many times over. In harder zones, my head was never very far from slamming into my desk.

The End Of The World As We Know It

Still, if you can penetrate through this wall of frustration, then Rusted Moss has a lot to give. For one thing, it looks gorgeous. The pixel art has an old-school, crunchy look to it, which is coupled with some wonderful animation. From the fairly downtrodden feel of the starting flatlands, we soon move on to the brighter areas. The mountainside in particular looks wonderful. Each area has a distinct feel that sets it apart. Though, unfortunately, this hasn’t extended to the enemies. Most are robots, which are all variations on rust-coloured circles, while others are just indistinct blobs. A little disappointing, given the scenery.

Still, the rusting machines do tie in nicely with the overall plot. There’s a strong sense of decay and impending inevitability running through everything. Humanity is desperately trying to keep the Age of Man going, while the Fae are waiting in the background, checking their watches, and waiting for their turn to take over. Unusually, we don’t play as the desperate humans. Instead, we’re a changeling known as Fern, who recently betrayed a group of witches in order to usher in the Age of Fae. She’s then pitted against these witches to recover pieces of Titania, the leader of the Fae. It’s a nice story, well told in writing terms but also competently infused throughout the world. Even the brighter regions give off an air that everything is gradually falling prey to entropy.

Still, not everyone is happy about the Fae knocking on the door, which brings us to the combat. It’s… okay. If pushed to describe it in one word, I’d probably go with ‘competent’. Fine praise, maybe, but it’s only ever going to play second fiddle to the grappling. It’s gun-based, usually concerned with holding down the mouse and aiming as best you can. Boss fights prefer to play up the movement instead, especially when they bring in things like poison, so the actual combat fades into the background. It’s not bad, exactly, it’s just not explored in any significant way. There are a handful of weapons you can collect, which are fairly run-of-the-mill, and enemies die quickly, bar a few exceptions. It mainly exists to spice up the grappling element.

Rusted Moss - Atmosphere

Tough Love

All of this leads me to a single conclusion: Rusted Moss is aimed at a specific type of person. Someone who relishes high difficulty ceilings, where all the tools to smash through are given to them early. I’m not sure that person is me, but the glimpses into that world that Rusted Moss gave me were intriguing. I’ve never had such ups and downs with a game before. From gnashing my teeth, longing for them to give Fern a different death sound, to punching the air as I successfully made a tough swing. Rusted Moss sits on a knife edge of frustration. If its puzzles weren’t so competently made; if it didn’t look or sound so nice; if the plot wasn’t handled well, I feel like I would’ve just closed it and called it a day.

Instead, Rusted Moss brought me back from the brink time and again. By deliberately paring back the movement powers, Rusted Moss has made your own skill the barrier to progress. Bar the aforementioned physics quirks, the deaths are usually your own fault, which forces it to stay with you. It gives you something to prove. Rusted Moss makes few apologies for its difficulty and doesn’t hold your hand. As a result, it may rebuff some people but if you take the time to get into the right headspace, Rusted Moss will give you as much joy as it does pain.

(Rusted Moss Steam Page)


Rusted Moss is as beautiful as it is infuriating. An uncompromising metroidvania that looks and plays great. Its simplicity may lead to a few issues but it has a lot to give if you can break through its high difficulty.

+ Graphics are beautiful, with each region being distinct
+ Plot is neatly woven into the world
+ Decent writing throughout
+ Grappling mechanic is well integrated, with well designed puzzles
+ The challenge areas are a nice touch

- Combat is a little flat and unexciting
- Enemy design is a little lackluster
- Grappling can make backtracking feel like a chore

Rusted Moss
Developers: faxdoc, happysquared, sunnydaze
Publisher: PLAYISM

(Played and currently only available on PC)
Josh Blackburn
Josh Blackburn
A good chunk of my time is spent chugging tea and gaming on my PC or curled on the sofa with my Switch. Survival, roguelikes and all things horror are my forte, but I’ll dip my toes into any interesting game that comes along. If you can push buttons or waggle sticks, I’ll give it a whirl.

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<Strong>Rusted Moss is as beautiful as it is infuriating. An uncompromising metroidvania that looks and plays great. Its simplicity may lead to a few issues but it has a lot to give if you can break through its high difficulty.</strong><br /> <br /> + Graphics are beautiful, with each region being distinct<br /> + Plot is neatly woven into the world<br /> + Decent writing throughout <br /> + Grappling mechanic is well integrated, with well designed puzzles<br /> + The challenge areas are a nice touch<br /> <br /> - Combat is a little flat and unexciting<br /> - Enemy design is a little lackluster<br /> - Grappling can make backtracking feel like a chore<br /> <br /> <strong>Rusted Moss</strong><br /> Developers: faxdoc, happysquared, sunnydaze<br /> Publisher: PLAYISM<br /> <br /> (Played and currently only available on PC)Review: Rusted Moss