A lot of people think that, to get by in the video game industry, you need to be backed by a million dollar budget and a roster of talented developers. Actually, the fact is, you just need two basic things – a great idea, and the right person to back it up. Take Shawn McGrath, for instance. He’s been working on his project DYAD for the last couple of years, shaping it up to be a quintessential gaming experience, but without the need for a lavish budget or office space. Now the fruits of his labors are finally out on PlayStation Network, and if this isn’t a testament to the power of independent gaming, we’re not sure what is.
Think of DYAD as a hybrid of the classic Tempest 2000 and Harmonix’s previously released Frequency and Amplitude. You travel through a fast-moving tube, linking together similarly colored notes as a tune plays along in the background. The more notes you connect, the better your run becomes, increasing your score and, in some cases, your speed. Obviously it’s not always a smooth run, though, as you’ll have to contend with obstacles that could easily bring your successive linkings to a halt. Small additions to the play mechanics also keep things interesting over the course of the game's 26 stages
You can probably breeze through them in an hour if you’re just trying to “get by”. Doing this, however, will deprive you of the pure joy that DYAD has to offer. Each stage has three stars for you to earn, based on time and score challenges. Earning all three opens up a special Trophy task that, if completed, gives you a virtual reward for your collection. That is, if you can complete it. These suckers are hard, but not impossible.
DYAD works with a trouble-free control scheme that takes milliseconds to get used to. You use the analog stick or D-pad to control your cursor around the tube, while hitting the X button to connect with notes and shoot yourself forward. The square button occasionally comes into play, but McGrath manages to keep the gameplay on a nice and simple level, without any gimmicks getting in the way. It’s stuff like this that we need to see more of – especially since Rock Band Blitz still doesn’t have a release date. (Soon, though.)
In addition, DYAD has one of the better visual presentations we’ve seen in a PSN game in some time. The use of colors is simply dazzling as you shoot through the stage, and the way it ends, with a filter slowly but surely losing focus, is actually rather cool, though you might think something’s wrong with your contact lens at first. The action moves briskly enough, and the menus are a breeze to get through.
You’ll also love the music. McGrath has gathered together a slew of worthwhile tunes that really make you want to keep playing DYAD just to hear how much better the next one sounds. It’s a soothing mix of techno and new age tunes that will make you feel good as you play. The sound effects are minimal, but not completely necessary.
On top of that, DYAD also has online leaderboards, so you can continue to chase after the best scores on the net and try to be king – or queen – of each stage. That certainly adds to the replay value.
If there’s any real negative that comes from this package, it’s the fact that Sony’s priced DYAD like a routine PSN game. Instead of giving it an independent darling price of around $5, you’ll be paying $15. I’m not saying the game isn’t worth that, because it is, but you’d think the company would be cutting a little slack to give everyone a chance to snag it for around $10.
Price aside, DYAD is one of the most viscerally enthralling music/puzzle games you’ll come across, and a friendly reminder that with the right person in charge, a small project can certainly bloom into something big. We highly suggest checking it out, without hesitation.