4 out of 5. Brutally difficult, but wholly fair and rewarding, Rabbit's Quest is a unique top-down retro style game that is well worth your time.
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How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. Top Down perspective and focus on key-like gating sets it apart from other Metroidvania games, but progression is still very Metroidvania-like
Primary Challenge: Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~12 hours
Review Info: Rabbit's Quest was played using the version available from itch.io

More Info

Developer: Directshift
Publisher: Directshift
Sub-genre: Hero Core Style
Features: Map System, Ranged Combat, Top-Down/Isometric Perspective, Fast Travel/Teleporters, Cute, Single Screen/No Auto-Scrolling
Difficulty: Brutal
Linearity/Openness: High Gating - No Handholding
Platforms: Windows, Itch.io
Release Date: 2019/03/16
Available Languages: English

Store Links
Note: Rabbit's Quest is pay-what-you want and is available for free if you so choose.

    itch.io    

Buy Rabbit's Quest if you like…

  • Bullet Hell
  • Minimalist Graphics
  • Endurance Challenges
  • Extremely challenging and nuanced level and combat design
  • Rabbits

▼ Review continues below ▼

One of the great things about the indie game industry is the reintroduction of limitations; the idea that “art through adversity” is still a true axiom. Rabbit’s Quest once again proves that minimalist graphics and two buttons (besides the directional inputs) are all you need to make a great game. Starting out, I totally expected it to be a Mini-Metroidvania style exhibition, but instead I found a delightfully challenging ten to fifteen hour ordeal. No matter how much I played, it always found some way to surprise me. The difficulty in Rabbit’s Quest climbs to one of the most brutal experiences I’ve played in recent memory, so it’s definitely not a game for everyone. However, if you enjoy hard-but-fair old-school gameplay, Rabbit’s Quest is unique enough, and the scope is large enough, that it’s one you should definitely check out.

The plot for Rabbit’s Quest is pretty basic. Rabbit, Cat, and Dog are on their way to collect some powerful crystal on an alien planet, and something goes wrong as they descend to the surface. Dog is injured and Cat is looking out for him, so it’s up to Rabbit to explore the planet’s surface for help. Little does Rabbit know, there’s an entire Metroidvania to get through before any help can be given, with only one or two really relevant plot points to be had along the way. Those plot points are teased in a great way, however, keeping the mystery strong and enticing. It was enough that even in the hardest challenges I felt I had to get through just to see what happens, and while it still never goes beyond a basic hero’s journey, I felt pretty satisfied.

Rabbit’s Quest isn’t a traditional Metroidvania game in the sense that it’s not a platformer. You move around as if you’re controlling a top-down character, but you can only ever shoot left or right. Later on you get a dash move that can go in all 8 directions, and you’re invincible while using it. Somehow these two functions alone manage to carry the entire game. You get upgrades to these powers that keep progression feeling fresh, but the true star is the level design.

The limitation of only being able to shoot horizontally means that positioning is of the utmost importance, and Rabbit’s Quest pushes this concept to its furthest limit. Combat leans heavily into bullet hell style attacks from enemies, but of course – even for those familiar with the more basic bullet patterns – lining up a shot is uniquely challenging. Rabbit’s Quest does not feature any scrolling, so all of the obstacles and traps are visible to the player on any given screen. Any time you leave an area the screen resets – with all enemies and doors respawning. This makes some areas extra treacherous, but it also means you can survey what’s ahead by popping back and forth between screens and plan your strategy accordingly. “Hard but Fair” is the best way to describe this design, and even when the game gets to its excruciatingly difficult phases, there is still no instant death or anything of the sort that punishes you too harshly. In fact, even when you do die, it only loses your progress to the next checkpoint – you keep any points you’ve scored, any map locations you’ve explored, and any items you find.

Exploration is heavily gated, which does make it easy to get lost – having no idea where to go next. However, every single save point is also a teleporter, and the map always shows little white squares where another room exists, so it’s easy to travel around and survey areas where there could be progress. Since there isn’t any jumping, most of the ability gates are key-like by design, and there are some humorously clever uses of unlikely upgrades as a means of progression, but I won’t spoil any of them by giving examples.

One of the more interesting aspects of Rabbit’s Quest’s exploration is the relevancy of every single room on the map. Any room that has enemies in it can be cleared to achieve a “point”. If a room does not have enemies in it you get a point automatically once you’ve explored the room and added it to your map, and you can always use that map to see what rooms you’ve cleared and which ones you haven’t. Points can be exchanged for hit-points at a cost of two for one, so in a sense every screen serves the same purpose as “heartpieces” from other games. Tying your survivability to exploration means that even wandering into a dead-end is rewarding in its own way, especially since as you progress you’re going to want as many HP as you can get.

The way Rabbit’s Quest increases challenge as you progress is by requiring you to survive longer, and longer gauntlets between checkpoints. These endurance trials are nail-biting, and is surely the aspect of the game that will divide Rabbit’s Quest’s audience the most. The goal is to conserve as many hit points as you can on each screen since often the hardest challenge is in the final room. Enemies usually follow pretty basic patterns, though one or two are just random enough to make you want to deal with them as quickly as possible lest you get cornered. Thanks to the lack of instant death, the occasional no-win scenario is only a minor hiccup (assuming you don’t let it happen too often), and the hardest mini-bosses often include safe zones for you to catch your breath in. If you do fail though, you can teleport away to the HP shop and spend any points you earned along the way – and the one or two more HP can make a big difference. Most of these late-game challenges have you working your way through one-way doors, so you almost never have to backtrack through any of them. Even with all of these amenities, some of the gauntlets left me a little broken, and if it weren’t for a solid determination to discover the mysteries of Rabbit’s Quest (and to actually finish it for this review), I may have given up on multiple occasions. I wouldn’t be surprised if many players write this game off as “too hard” after trying it, but like any hard challenge, the soothing feeling of success always matches the frustrations that led up to it, especially when the design is generally fair.

Of course any game based on its brutal combat challenges wouldn’t be complete without boss fights, and Rabbit’s Quest delivers some amazing and memorable ones. While some of the challenge gauntlets include mini-bosses, bosses always have a checkpoint just before them to keep you right in the action, and all of them are designed to make you glad for that. Each boss progressively puts everything you’ve gained and learned to the test, and as you power up more and more their complexity matches your new abilities. These layers make each fight more gratifying to complete, and chasing that satisfying feeling of accomplishment is rewarded with even greater challenges. Later bosses took me literally hours of trying to complete, but each attempt got easier and easier as I watched myself get better at executing new strategies. You might be a little bunny with a piddly little gun, but by the end you’ll be a frightening force to be reckoned with.

Even if Rabbit’s Quest had higher production values, I doubt the gameplay could be any better. Sometimes the “Pew pew” sound of your laser gun gets a little grating, sure, and the aesthetic is a matter of taste, but at its core and throughout, Rabbit’s Quest captures everything necessary to be included among the great indie games. Endurance trials might feel a little bit much to some players, so this is certainly a niche appeal title. However, there isn’t much to lose if you don’t know if you’re in that niche, since the game is available for free – with donations recommended – on itch.io. If you really enjoy that feeling of accomplishment after completing something hard – perhaps if you’ve done the special ending to Cave Story, or the end game content in Hollow Knight, as a few examples – you should definitely check this game out. It’s admittedly not for everyone, but it’s an amazing game to me.


Final Score

4/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 4.5

Your ability to hit your enemies is intentionally limited, and the game uses those limitations to their maximum potential providing deeply satisfying encounters

Platforming
– 4

Since this technically controls ''top-down'', there isn't really ''platforming'', but challenges to dodge traps are another highlight of the game.

Exploration
– 4

Heavy gating means you'll be hitting a lot of dead ends, but every room has at least a fraction of an HP to be obtained

Puzzle
– 3

Discovering how to get to certain places often requires some keen observation, with some other minor, but clever, puzzles to be found

Story
– 3

The story is pretty straight forward, which is perfectly fine.

Graphics
– 3

The minimalist style is all the game needs

Music
– 4

The music is catchy, often jazzy, and will likely get stuck in your brain

Replayability
– 2

Rabbit's Quest is a game that you complete, with no incentive to play twice except for self-imposed challenges or speed runs.