What can I possibly attempt to articulate about this stupendous game that won’t make me sound like some starry-eyed fanboy? Well, let’s start with the overview, I guess.
For me, Dust: An Elysian Tail is one of those magical experiences that have come along only a handful of times in my short time on this planet. It seems like no matter what aspect of Dust I tried to form some semblance of criticism against, I could not levy the complaint. This game is by far one of, if not the, most polished and balanced games I have had the pleasure of playing in recent memory. Everything, and I mean everything, in Dust is so complete, focused, and masterfully executed that when you remember that one man made 90 percent of this game, it’s nigh unbelievable. Dean Dodrill is the maestro behind Dust: An Elysian Tail, and I have no issue name-dropping him in this review, as he heartily deserves it. Play this game.
Truth be told, when I first laid eyes on the art style that was chosen to represent the world of Dust, I almost passed it up. Upon closer inspection, what I saw intrigued me so much that I knew I had to play it. At first glance it may appear that the visual style is fairly generic anime, but that assumption couldn’t be more wrong. Dust’s world and character designs are heavily influenced by late-1980s/early-1990s Disney animation. If you have ever seen DuckTales, TaleSpin, Beauty and the Beast, or The Lion King, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. True, there is a hint of Eastern influence in the overall art design, but this is only used to set Dust apart from the aforementioned Disney productions. The result of this blend is crisp, colorful, and downright soothing to take in, an ocular pleasure in motion. Play this game.
HyperDuck SoundWorks is the culprit of Dust’s moving theatrical score. Mostly classical with a few driving electric guitar sequences during boss battles, the soundtrack wonderfully accompanies the action on screen. I often just stopped mid-stride to revel in the music and reflect on the gorgeous vista represented so vibrantly on screen. It is worth mentioning the soundtrack can be purchased separately on Amazon. The sound effects are of equal high quality – not much more elaboration is needed. Voice acting is an aspect of gaming that often suffers from poor execution, but the VOs in Dust are leagues above many “AAA” games. The overall sound design ebbs and flows so well within the confines of the gameplay that any developer would be hard-pressed to match this level of synergy. Play this game.
Though definitely not a new premise, the “Metroid-Vania” structure of Dust: An Elysian Tail proves there is plenty of life left in the aging formula. The game is largely open-world, allowing the player to freely move from one area to another. Each area has its own self-contained theme and respective challenges. This design keeps the blend of platforming and combat fresh and innovative over the course of Dust’s arduous journey. Mountains have thick snow and punishing winds to contend with, and the subterranean expanse dares the player to tread forward into darkness. These differences, albeit small, bring the stages to life in a way that cannot be oversimplified as “lava level” or “snow level” and so forth.
The control of the game’s titular character is so flawless that upon making a mistake, any player worth his or her mettle will instantly know that whatever tragedy just occurred was solely his/her own fault. Dust’s combat mechanics are largely combo-based, but there is a certain finesse that the player will only gain after hours of gameplay. The fighting is that perfect balance of “Easy to learn, yet difficult to master” that combo-rich games strive to achieve. Overall, Dust offers enough classic and unique gameplay elements to satisfy newcomers and the most cynical of retro gamers alike. Play this game.
Everything that Dust has to offer is housed within its adventure mode. This single mode features a plethora of side missions in addition to the main quest. After all is said and done, we’re talking about 16 hours of some of the most solid gameplay you can get your hands on. The story in Dust is not to be downplayed by any means. It revolves around the possible genocide of an anthropomorphic race and the redemption of a mysterious warrior. The danger and adventure that the game produces are not only harrowing but enthralling as well. Dust: An Elysian Tail is available on Steam and XBOX Live. For the humble price of $15, no one, I repeat, no one should pass this game up. Play this game.
Obviously, you have probably gathered that I loved this game. Dust: An Elysian Tail is a rare experience that reminds me why I fell in love with video games in the first place. It has the ability to transport the player to another reality, one so beautifully realized that you will never want to leave. In short, play this game!
- Developer: Dean Dodrill
- Publisher: Microsoft
- Platforms: PC, XBOX 360
- Release: XBL-8-15-2012/ PC-5-24-2013
- Time Stamp: 7-23-2013