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MADievals: The Rise of Rusty Steelknee review

MADievals: The Rise of Rusty Steelknee review
Richard Hoover avatar image

Amusing point-and-click high fantasy riff falls short of its potential

Take the lovable ineptness of a Guybrush Threepwood and mix it with the faux medieval-ness of a King Graham of Daventry, and you’ll get something like the knight Rusty Steelknee. Then send him on a multitude of quests only tangentially related to his main objective and you’ll have some sense of what awaits in 2finger’s point-and-click MADievals: The Rise of Rusty Steelknee. Presented in real-time 3D but played like a classic 2D adventure, Rusty’s journey will see him driven farther and farther away from his true goal and onto a path that offers a few chuckles and a whole lot of weirdness in this comedic riff on high fantasy adventures. 

Clad head to toe in his suit of armour, Rusty arrives in the realm of Manzasun on his trusty steed Spoffy. He’s come in search of a valuable gold relic called the Idol Lamp, which can be found in the Ascension Temple at the top of the mountain he parks his horse next to. Of course, getting there will be easier said than done, as Rusty learns from the locals that he needs the climbing gear of the deceased Old Guardian of the mountain. To learn where the Old Guardian is, Rusty has to perform a series of favours for a couple residents of the countryside – favours that increasingly take him everywhere except closer to his ultimate target.

Lots of adventure games feature tasks that draw the protagonist away from their goal. Typically these take the form of fetch quests, retrieving some item for somebody who can’t be bothered to get it themselves. Upon returning said item, the recipient then provides something that allows the hero to advance their own pursuit. But lots of games are not this game. 

Rusty’s chore list, which he keeps in a book in his inventory for easy reference, takes him up and down the lower part of the mountain and through the swamp surrounding its base. However, save for the last fifteen minutes or so of its five-hour play time, the entirety of MADievals is spent doing stuff for other people without feeling like any progress is made towards climbing the mountain. Throughout the game, I kept asking myself why I was doing certain things. It’s not that the tasks were bad per se; it’s just that they felt, well, kind of pointless. Especially when it was revealed where the dead Old Guardian and his climbing gear were actually located.

The challenges themselves are an eclectic bunch, to be sure. The current guardian of the mountain, Macho Turtle, needs you to solve the mystery of the graveyard, which contains a series of riddles spread across different graves. Most of them involve finding some sort of esoteric item and making a lateral mental jump to figure out which grave riddle it’s intended to solve; said item can then be used with the appropriate grave. This has various effects, such as hurling a heavy knight helmet into the swamp to be retrieved at a later point. Other situations are less riddle focused, requiring a more general outside-the-box approach. This may involve collecting the ingredients for a soothing tea for one of the denizens of the swamp, or rigging a fairground race game to ensure you get a prize. Some even require a degree of spatial awareness, such arranging a pile of junk to be of use. The scenarios tend to be a bit out there, but the logic for solving them is fair and makes sense in context within the comedic trappings of the game.

On the subject of humour, Rusty himself is a rather entertaining knight. While presented like a serious fantasy game, MADievals is rife with anachronisms like the stereo system of a fantasy medieval DJ, pop-culture nods including the thinly veiled Spider-Man clone Roy Spidelweb, and sheer goofiness such as Rusty arguing with the game’s omniscient, unseen narrator. Moment to moment, the game is fun but given that everything Rusty is doing is unrelated to his true quest, it all feels a bit hollow and instantly forgettable.

Most of the environs are rather dark and atmospheric, including the cemetery Rusty first arrives at and spends a protracted amount of time in. It turns out the Realm of Manzasun has been cursed by a witch to remain in perpetual darkness. That particular plot point serves as backstory for the game, but Rusty never really investigates it in any depth, ostensibly being more focused on securing the Idol Lamp. While most of the area he can search is rather repetitive, being generally rocky and using the same moody colour palette, the setting does change dramatically at one point when Rusty has to become self-hypnotized to enter a shared dream realm of a trapped Templar knight. Here the dreamscape takes the form of a pirate ship on the high seas with clear blue waters and the sun blazing overhead.

Despite being rendered in 3D, the game plays in typical 2D point-and-click fashion. Rather than follow fluidly along as Rusty proceeds on his journey, the camera will rest in fixed positions to display the current scene. As he walks around and enters different areas, the camera will do a quick move before settling into a new fixed position. Most of the time this works well, although the camera shifts can be a bit disorienting in a few places within the cramped confines of the cemetery, where it slides and spins through the world.

The denizens of this land are few but eccentric. Macho can barely see because he can’t wear his glasses under his helmet. Then there’s the other guardian of the Ascension Temple, Bill Undergrave. Actually, he’s the other other guardian, as he’s not the guardian whose grave you’re trying to find to get the climbing gear. No, Bill is a guardian who lives in a coffin with only his feet sticking out and can somehow still see Rusty no matter where he is in Manzasun. A few other characters pop up here and there and are nicely differentiated from one another in look and personality, though they only make brief appearances.

The narrator and all in-game characters are voiced to a high standard. Deserving particular praise is the talent behind Rusty himself, Matthew Curtis, who shows incredible range from sarcastic to emotional to over-the-top fun. The rest of the audio presentation is done well too. Take some suitably epic medieval music, throw in the occasional bagpipe or two, give it a rock and roll vibe and that’s essentially the soundtrack for this game. The score goes a long way to making all of Rusty’s chores feel much more important than they actually are. 

Complementing the action is a good selection of sound effects. As befits a knightly fantasy, there are plenty of expected noises like the rattle of armour and the swinging of weapons. Then there’s the unexpected as well, such as the fully mechanized and lengthy series of effects that accompanies Rusty’s use of a photo booth, accessed through a washroom disguised on the outside as a crypt in the cemetery.

MADievals has some nice quality-of-life features, including both manual saving and an autosave upon leaving the game. Environments have a lot of detail, and since they’re shrouded in darkness most of the time, it can be difficult to discern everything that can be interacted with. However, a handy hotspot highlighter makes short work of that problem. And Rusty himself, though he’s encumbered by a full suit of armour, is quite spry. Double-clicking an exit will transport Rusty directly to the next scene, while doing so within a normal part of the room will have him quickly run to the target area.

For all of that, there are a couple technical areas that could have used a bit more attention. It didn’t happen frequently, but every now and then Rusty or some other character’s animations would go wonky and their limbs would briefly spasm off in some painfully bone-breaking direction. Fortunately I experienced no such issues in the gameplay itself, but I did have to endure the lengthy load times. These occur whenever Rusty enters a significant new area. For example, the cemetery, which is presented through several different views, is all one location that can be seamlessly navigated. However, go down the mountain to the swamp below and you’ll have to be prepared to wait a while.

Final Verdict

MADievals: The Rise of Rusty Steelknee is certainly entertaining at times, but it falls short of being more than the sum of its parts. It packs in a lot of gameplay, but almost all of it feels irrelevant because it’s side stuff rather than furthering the main narrative. It has some nice features for making the experience comfortable to play, but also a few glitches and lengthy load times. Its scenarios and characters can be amusing, and yet simultaneously almost immediately forgettable. And speaking of forgettable, I nearly forgot to mention that just as it seems as if the story is finally kicking in with the ascent up the mountain, the game … ends. No doubt the reason for all this is a lack of budget following an extended period in early access, and it’s a shame because I’d really like to see what the developer originally intended. As it is, we’re left with a scaled-down adventure with unfulfilled potential. It’s fun while it lasts, but with no real substance, MADievals ends up being a funny little diversion that players will quickly move on from when complete.

Hot take


With its lack of relevant story progression until a rushed finale, MADievals won’t make a lasting impression, but its eccentric characters, plethora of anachronisms, and straight-up weirdness keep this fantasy medieval romp entertaining in the moment.


  • Well-voiced by the entire cast
  • Epic music gives a grand sense of adventure
  • Some laughs to be had throughout
  • Welcome quality-of-life features


  • Constant sense of “why am I doing this?”
  • Occasional glitches and lengthy load times
  • Ends just as the story gets moving

Richard played MADievals: The Rise of Rusty Steelknee on PC using a review code provided by the game's publisher. 


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