A game about sweeping is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you imagine a game with a high enjoyment factor, but Dusforce is exactly that in spades, but only if you are ready to be punished relentlessly.
Dustforce is a tough-as-nails platformer in the vein of Meatboy and the like. The game requires precision and a desire to perfect your motions in order to earn better grades on your level completion.
The goal of each level is to clean as much dust, leaves, or slime from the level without breaking stride. You will be graded at the end depending on your completion and finesse and be awarded keys to unlock more levels depending on how well you do.
There are three types of keys: silver, gold, and red. You obtain silver keys throughout the game simply by completing levels, but gold and red keys are harder to come by. You must get a grade of SS on a silver door to obtain a gold key and a SS on a gold door to obtain a red, which is an extremely difficult task.
At the start of each level you may select one of four unique characters, each with their own slight tweaks to their statistics. The game unfortunately does little to explain what these are and you must discover through trial and error what each character is capable of.
With four worlds ranging from forest, city, a mansion, and a laboratory—a total of 56 levels overall—the art style of this game is truly inspired. The sharp cel-shaded art style of the game is masterfully done, giving it an almost anime feel.
The muted tones of the backgrounds are the perfect contrast to the brightly colored characters. Each level is lovingly crafted. From the lush green forest to the cold metallic laboratory, each theme is well orchestrated. Even the enemies are tailored to the level design and add to the aesthetic.
Combat plays a larger part in Dustforce than in many other hardcore platformers currently available. Fighting plays into the combo system as each hit on an enemy counts toward your combo, but you can choose to use the heavy attack and cause the enemy to drop extra dust onto the environment.
Controlling the game is fairly simple overall, but requires extreme precision. Unfortunately the Vita’s analog stick just isn’t up to the task. With the use of either the analog stick or the d-pad and three buttons, the controls are easily learned but tricky to master.
I found myself having to use the d-pad to get through the levels with a decent score. While this was not a deal breaking occurrence it definitely diminished the experience. The characters’ motions seem to be slightly less fluid than their PC counterparts and often led to less accurate jumps and tricks.
The tutorial is paced far too quickly and does not do a good job of laying out parameters of jumps or how to accomplish certain necessary tricks. Thankfully the game’s leaderboard contains videos of other players’ playthroughs that helped me understand how to pass certain areas.
The musical score is well suited to the environments and often seems almost tailored to the levels. The mellowness that pervades is welcomed due to the highly stressful nature of the game and helps to keep the nerves settled. Even the background noise is well done adding plenty of atmosphere and a sense of life to each area.
The multiplayer is interesting but ultimately forgettable. There are two modes—king of the hill and survival—both of which are extremely similar to Smash Bros. One mode has you trying to keep specific areas clean or dirty depending on your team. The other mode pits the teams against each other, attempting to knock the other team into spikes or off of platforms.
The leaderboards seem like a more fleshed-out online aspect. With the boards easily accessible in the menu and broken down into levels so that you can scroll through and pick the area you wish to view, you may also watch replays from the top players to learn routes through levels or just learn how to play a bit better.
• Stunning artistic design and attention to detail.
• Excellent variety in levels keeps things fresh.
• Leaderboard videos are a great addition to help newcomers.
• Controls are not as tight as they need to be for a game requiring this kind of precision even with the d-pad.
• Tutorials leave large gaps in understanding the rules of character motion.
• Multiplayer seems like an unnecessary addition.
The 411: Dustforce is one of those games that you either get or you don’t. It is aimed at a very specific type of gamer, but if that is you it is a truly enjoyable experience.
The art style is beautiful and the environments are entrancing.
Between having to use the d-pad for accuracy and the characters feeling slightly off there is definite room for improvement.
the mellow soundtrack fits the mood of the game perfectly.
Tons of levels will have you coming back for better grades time after time.
everything but the controls come together in what ultimately is still a very entertaining if extremely punishing experience.