Russian Subway Dogs

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Russian Subway Dogs Game Poster Image
Fun retro action game mixes pixels, politics, and fast play.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Aside from avoiding starvation for your dog, there's no actual messages included with this arcade-like game.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though the hero's a dog, he has to defeat other dogs and deprive them of food to survive.

Ease of Play

Early difficulty and awkward keyboard controls make progress tough, but using a controller makes things easier. 

Violence & Scariness

Frequently, players will bark at exploding vodka bottles that pop up on-screen that make rival dogs and animals disappear in fiery explosions. Dogs die of starvation if they don't eat, but cartoonish violence and animated visuals limit impact of violence.

Language
Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Russian Subway Dogs is a downloadable arcade-style action game for Windows featuring a retro-style take on Cold War-era Communism. Based on a real-life phenomenon in Moscow, it features homeless dogs who've taken up residence in the metro and use the subway to travel to different stations. Gameplay involves dogs foraging for food, with mild violence and references to alcohol in its use of vodka bottles as explosive devices. Cartoon dogs, bears, and elk are seen being hit with and burned by explosions, and player character dogs die of starvation if they fail to collect enough food, but they vanish without blood or gore being seen.

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What's it about?

RUSSIAN SUBWAY DOGS takes players to Communist-era Russia where hundreds of feral dogs forage for food in the subway stations. To help the dogs get a meal, players attempt to scare people into dropping food by barking at them, while also trying to fight off rivals with exploding vodka bottles. Using either keyboard controls or a game controller, players rack up points by moving their "hero" pups along the train platform while collecting food dropped by passengers. Food is worth more points when it's "cooked," and players can do this by hitting it with an exploding vodka bottle. As pups seek points, a hunger timer ticks down; if the timer reaches zero, the clever canine hero dies of starvation. A Campaign mode lets players unlock additional dogs and additional train stations by completing missions given by the feline-run "Proletaricat," and ambitious players can put their stamina to the test in Endless mode.

Is it any good?

This dynamic little indie action game is a standout from the get-go thanks to its gameplay, which grabs you from the start, though the difficulty will test your skills. Russian Subway Dogs' theme is one-of-a-kind: Taken from a real-life phenomenon during the Cold War years, it's presented in a fun retro style. Sadly, though the art's a winner, the initial control scheme falls short. The default keyboard setup is downright terrible, making moving, jumping, and barking clumsy and frustrating. Fortunately, the controls can be changed in the options menu. A better option though, if you have one, is to plug in a console game controller. This makes things far easier, and cranks up the fun because you can then focus on scaring the wits out of food-toting subway riders by barking at them, scoring lots of points, and blasting the competition.

As you get comfortable at scare-barking subway riders and catching food, you unlock more playable dogs (Cute corgi, anyone? Sassy Shiba Inu?) and more stations that you can visit. New stations mean new food items to steal and hazards to avoid (how'd a charging elk get into the subway, for Pete's sake?), and things get increasingly hectic the more you explore the subway. Despite the sometimes frustrating challenge of achieving preset score requirements, clever Cold War propaganda-style graphics keep things light, and pun-heavy humor keeps things fun even for players who don't get the political references. Actually, Russian Subway Dogs is a light and fun way to talk about this period of history without diving into heavy topics, while also seeing who's got the best scavenging chops. So if you're hungry for fast-moving arcade action that pushes your reflexes to the edge, this is one indie game you can sink your teeth into.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. How is the violence in Russian Subway Dogs affected by its cartoonish visuals? Does the violence seem unrealistic because enemies like bears and elk are set on fire by randomly tossed vodka bottles?

  • What can you and your kids do to help animals in need? Does Russian Subway Dogs manage to alert you to the issue of animal homelessness?

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