Dustforce PSN Review: Proof that video games can even make cleaning fun
When Dustforce originally launched on the PC back in 2012, it garnered a lot of comparisons to Super Meat Boy. Personally, I've always felt that it's worthy of its own praise, because while it's certainly a challenging 2D platformer, it goes in a stylistically different direction from a lot of the games in the genre. What you get with Dustforce, which is now available on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, is a game focused on snazzy acrobatics, slick wall-running, and daunting combos.
Debris is scattered all over the place — on the ground, walls, and ceilings. Unlike its contemporaries, this particular platformer isn't solely about getting from point A to point B. Instead, Dustforce challenges you to take its four characters, each with their own perks, and run through these levels while also sweeping up the mess littered throughout. Anyone who's played the game will tell you that it's more than a janitorial sim. This is a uniquely tough platformer that relies on skill and determination — like other games in the genre, but with its own distinct goals.
Those leaves that are strewn about the forest, for example, aren't just meant to increase your score should you clean them up. That's still an important aspect of Dustforce if you're a score chaser, but even more important is the combo mechanic. By continuously sweeping away, you build up a combo. Keep that combo going until you finish a level, and you'll earn a grade based on finesse, which is one of two important factors in Dustforce. The other is completion, which entails sweeping up every last bit of garbage within the different stages.
The reason finesse and completion are so important is because you need to score high on both parameters in order to unlock more levels. This is where I think one of the biggest problems in Dustforce lies. It's great that the game challenges players to step up their game and perform perfect runs in order to open up more levels. But unfortunately, that means not everyone will see everything this otherwise splendid title has to offer, and that's kind of a shame.
Anything can break your combo. Take too long to get to the next bit of dust in that old mansion, and you're combo meter will drain. Get hit by an enemy, and bam, your combo's all gone. Hit some fiendishly placed spikes and, well, you get the idea. If you're only playing to reach the end of the stages with no intention of unlocking everything, it's no big deal. But for those players who want to sweep up everything and pull off perfect runs, it can definitely get a bit frustrating.
At the very least, you'll still get to play through plenty of stages if you just run through and don't try to get S-ranks on everything. The amount of content you get right from the get-go alone is worth the $10 asking price. Additionally, even if you just play through the game somewhat casually, you'll still pick up a decent number of keys to unlock more stages. Dustforce is merciful in that sense, and it's rewarding despite its high demands for completionists.
Like the original PC version, Dustforce on consoles includes a multiplayer component. It's a fun diversion that pits players against one another in small arenas. You can play locally against your buddies or even take the battle online, a feature that was missing from the PC release. Unfortunately, while the console version of Dustforce outshines the PC original in terms of multiplayer, it's missing the level editor that fans were treated to the first time around. If you've yet to play the game, which edition you choose really depends on whether you value online multiplayer over level creation.
Even though Dustforce is based around dirty, messy, ugly things, it's actually quite gorgeous to behold. The game sports a stylistically clean art style that's filled with subdued hues and lovely environments. Every level is attractively designed, foregrounds sport nice details, and backgrounds are appropriately simple. I first played Dustforce on a regular computer screen, and it was nice to witness it all over again on a large HD TV.
As great as the game looks, though, its soundtrack far outshines pretty much every other element, be it graphics, features, and even gameplay. Composer Lifeformed really managed to create some of the most enjoyable music ever included in a video game. To this day, I still listen to my copy of the soundtrack. It's just a truly kick-ass collection of themes, each of which is unique and contributes to a massively outstanding series of incredible music.
Dustforce is the type of game that will reward you for your efforts. It'll give you as much as you're willing to put into it. If you just want to cruise through some great platforming stages while listening to good music, it'll present you with the opportunity to do so. If you want to show off your tenacity and spend hours perfecting each run while facing a daunting challenge, you'll have the chance to prove yourself. Regardless of your play style, Dustforce is an impressive game, and its recent availability on consoles is nothing but excellent news for fans of platformers.
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