Cute yet extremely dark.
You play as Elvis, whose house is destroyed, so he sets out on a dangerous platforming adventure to get a new one via his warranty. Along the way Elvis walks right through the middle of a race war between his people, the red triangles, and their neighbors, the blue monsters.
Over across 100 levels, you hop between platforms which you stick to as if magnetically, allowing you to run around all sides without fear of falling. Elvis acquires a blue-monster disguise early on that allows him to jump on blue areas that would otherwise disappear when he approaches. Inversely, red spaces can't be used when in the disguise. Even the stages themselves are 'racist' in this game. Luckily, you can instantly switch between colors on the fly with the press of a button.
The platforming is fluid, though the way in which you can run full speed down the side of platform can certainly catch you off guard at times, specifically when you time a jump too late and end up jumping off the side of the platform instead of the intended top. Within a couple of levels, I was able to easily adjust to this without much fuss.
There are multiple chapters that each introduce new mechanics, thus keeping things fresh. For example, you'll eventually come across colored hazards, such as blue waterfalls and red lasers, that can only be crossed when you're the appropriate color. Eventually, you'll be jumping between different-colored platforms while swapping colors multiple times while in the air to pass through hazards. [Think Outland if it were a pure platformer. ~Ed. Nick Tan]
That said. the difficulty scales well, though I would have liked it to be a bit more difficult in progression. Throughout each level there are items to collect that can be used to unlock checkpoints throughout the level or kept for those who are into achievements and leaderboards. There is a bit of optional difficulty there for those that want it, but the actual core game never gets all that challenging; most seasoned platformer players will breeze through the game with ease. On Rusty Trails is certainly harder than Super Mario Bros., but easier than Super Meat Boy, for comparison.
The aesthetics are a perfect match to the tone of the game overall; that is to say, cute but dark. All the character designs and main story are reminiscent of something you'd find in a Pixar film, and like most Pixar films the narrative is a bit darker than it lets on. The levels are all beautifully illustrated in what appear to be hand-drawn graphics, accented by a haunting robotic soundtrack.
While you hop along happily as Elvis, you'll see segregated groups yelling at each other, painting huge billboards with propaganda and sneering at you if you come close to them and are the wrong race. This is the only game I can think of that I've ever played that touches on race in this way, even going as far to include an interracial relationship. It does so without being preachy about it while certainly sending an anti-racism message.
I was able to complete the game in just over two hours, though completionists will surely squeeze more time out of it. While it is a smidgen shorter than I would have liked, I prefer that over a game that is longer just to be longer, as length doesn't equate to value.
A beautiful yet bleak platformer that deals with serious topics while staying lighthearted, On Rusty Trails is easy to recommend for fans of platformers. If Pixar made a platformer, this would be it.