GDC 2018: Hands-on with Russian Subway Dogs

Spooky Squid Games demonstrated their forthcoming title Russian Subway Dogs at the Game Developers Conference 2018. With fast-paced arcade-inspired action, humorous antics, and simple to learn but hard to master mechanics, the game constantly drew laughter and repeat plays from attendees. ConFreaks & Geeks had the opportunity to try out the game and chat with the Miguel Sternberg, the art director and programmer of Spooky Squid Games. We think the title is already a blast to play, and we are excited to recount our hands-on experience.

Russian Subway Dogs

Russian Subway Dogs revolves around scoreplay and continuing a run for as long as possible. The player picks one of the numerous four-legged friends before entering a single-screen stage full of fast-paced action. The player can freely walk left and right and jump, but the game’s hallmark is barking. Barking behind a hapless pedestrian will shock him or her into dropping food, and this food is extremely important as it replenishes the dog’s ever-depleting stamina gauge.

However, the game keeps players on their toes with a variety of tricks. Barking at a bottle of vodka will catapult it into the air, and once this bottle collides with something, it will explode. The explosion will knock characters out and even cause splash damage to the player’s character, but the most important part is that it cooks food for increased scores.

Another interesting feature is juggling a vodka bottle in mid-air will result in combo points. This allows the game flow to benefit learning positioning, jumping, and barking. Miguel mentioned that juggling vodka bottles and catching food without other animals intervening are two different combo systems. He stated that since these bonuses stack, players have the chance to get huge points with a single piece of food. However, this can take a lot of skill. The flow is rewarding, dynamic, comedic, and all-around fun.

Russian Subway Dogs

As we spoke with Miguel, we asked about the game’s origins. When we asked what inspired the game’s action, Miguel stated that the inspiration came from actual dogs that navigate the Moscow Metro and steal food from people. He went on to say that the mechanics originated from a game jam, and with further playtesting he decided to build a full featured version of the game. The levels’ charmingly crafted pixel art is also thematically based on actual subway stations in Moscow.

We also got to check out some of the game’s distinct features. We witnessed a wide variety of fun playable animals, which even include guest stars from titles such as VA-11 Hall-A. Miguel stated that we can expect more character announcements in the future. Miguel also mentioned that the music is by Peter Chapman, who was responsible for composing Guacamelee’s tunes. We thought these tunes were incredibly catchy, and their upbeat nature uplifted our spirits as much as the game mechanics themselves. Furthermore, other animals such as bears also made an appearance, which really diversified the stage flow.

Russian Subway Dogs

On the subject of replayability, Miguel spoke about some exciting aspects of the game. We got to try out both Endless Mode and Campaign Mode. The former behaves similarly to a traditional score attack or survival mode, and the latter is a sequence of stages that each have individual goals. Some of these goals involve reaching certain combo counts or even specific kinds of combos. Miguel mentioned that every minute the game will display a challenge that players can complete for bonus points, and consequently every run will be slightly different. He demonstrated some of the game’s power-ups such as slowdown-inducing coffee, and the fun part is that random animals can also grab them too. Furthermore, Miguel also said that the game is systems driven. He enjoys systemic simulation type mechanics and arcade style mechanics, and he wants to hybridize both. He also hopes players will continue to discover new things even after playing for hours. Miguel also teased some end game developments including a large scale encounter, which definitely sounds promising.

Russian Subway Dogs

Regarding its reception with audiences, Russian Subway Dogs already seems to be a hit. Miguel stated that he showcased the game at every PAX in North America last year, and some players definitely came back to try to beat their high scores. Some players even played the game across multiple PAX events, and it was fun having returning players. The game lends itself to a sort of “one more try” mentality that we definitely felt during our hands-on experience, and we can’t wait to bark, jump, and juggle some more.

Russian Subway Dogs is slated for release in 2018 on Steam, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita.