Dustforce Review

Dustforce is one of those platform games designed for the hardcore gamer. Levels are designed to test your reaction times and controller skills, and the goal is not just to complete levels, but to complete them as quickly and efficiently as possible. If replaying a level over and over again to memorize every twist and turn and to perfect your timing isn't something that sounds appealing to you, then Dustforce is definitely not for you. And if this type of game is appealing to you, you may find that this particular game's controls' finicky nature will lead to more frustration than perfect run elation.

There's more of a premise than a story in Dustforce. You play as a sweeper who pushes a broom (or vacuum) along the walls (and ceilings) in caverns and castles with the kind of architecture you only ever see in games and complete with the requisite pits and deadly spikes. There are four characters you can choose from, each of which has slightly different handling characteristics but all of whom are devoid of any kind of personality or background. Unfortunately the game leaves it entirely up to you to figure out the differences between the characters, so it will take a certain amount of trial and error to see which is best suited to each level and to your style of play.

Dustforce screenshot 6

Each level has the twin goals of making it to the end as quickly as possible and to do so with style. This latter goal is accomplished by running your character over the dirty spots on the levels' floors, walls, and ceilings to clean it up. Keep moving efficiently from one dirty spot to the next and you build up a combo meter, but if you miss a jump or hit some spikes or enemy the meter will be reset - death is not an ending here, but it will cost you time and your built-up combo meter. When you do reach the end of a level you'll be given a pair of grades based on your time and performance, but don't expect to come close to the highest marks until you've played through the level a number of times, memorizing the layout and perfecting your timing.

Dustforce is as much a game of momentum as it is a game of meticulous jumping. When things are going well there's a rush of exhilaration as you fly through the level in a way that would almost make Sonic proud. When things don't go well, they really don't go well. You can find yourself floundering over the same stretch over and over again because you can't find any consistency in the controls. It's hard to develop a rhythm or get an intuitive feel for a game's controls when the game doesn't always respond as expected when you press a button. Games like this require tight, responsive, and consistent controls and Dustforce fails to deliver on all three counts. It's such an issue that I had trouble with a couple of spots in the tutorial level when starting out, having to retry them a number of times before being able to move on. And when I did I felt that it was more random luck than anything else.

The control issues were made more disappointing by the fact that I wanted to like Dustforce. I like the game's aesthetics, its quirky premise, and its style of gameplay, but none of that mattered when compared to the frequent feelings of frustration at the controls. So in the end I can't really recommend the game to platform purists, and certainly not to casual gamers.

Final Rating: 60%. What might have been a good game is dusted by poor controls.

 



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