Release Date: August 15th, 2012
Developer: Humble Hearts
Platform: [Reviewed: Xbox 360] Xbox 360 Arcade
Rated: E 10+
Overall, the gaming industry has seen many shifts the past decades with the majority of solid 2D titles ceasing to hit the shelves. Hardcore 2D fans will never forget the likes of Castlevania, Metroid, Contra, and several other titles that captured the hearts of young gamers (and some old) everywhere. So, now that most of us have grown up into an age of a Call of Duty cloned “surreal action shooter” filled market, you would think a new 2D platformer would fail to appease gamers. If you had your doubts, you are wrong. Humble Hearts, a primarily one man team, has just released one of the most refreshing side-scrollers to hit the Live Arcade. If you want to know what real gaming is like, this title can easily show it to you.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is a classic platformer/rpg title and shoots many back to the roots of retro gaming. Not only does it do this ,but it sucks you into its well-developed world and art style, unlike many other titles I have tried in the past. It takes a special kind of game to grab your attention and carry you smoothly along until the end. Since everything is hand painted and custom, you can attest to the environments and interfaces being done extremely well as a massive feat. The custom soundtrack developed by Alex Brandon and HyperDuck Studios is soothing while relaxing and isn’t overpowering with any of the many tracks within the game. The presentation, including the story and delightfully well executed voice acting, makes the game sparkle on all sides.
A main draw for this game has to be the pleasing gameplay. We already know that Dust: An Elysian Tail does well in all other areas so you would generally assume the game mechanics are grade A material as well; this is somewhat true. The various abilities and combos you are given can really lead to some serious combo chains. The more monsters and side-quests you complete, the more experience you gain. When you gain enough experience you can then upgrade Dust in either his health, attack, defense, or magic stats. There never is a dull moment if you experiment with attack combinations and try something different in every fight. There is also plenty of chests and items to find around the map that may either give you treasure or perhaps may prove to be an ingredient in a crafting blueprint. Many secrets areas and chests are scattered across the map and many times you will find yourself having to backtrack if you really want to open all of them in completion.
There are plenty of environments to explore and a various amount of monsters to battle along your way. This all sounds fun right? So ,what is the drawback? Boss battles, that’s what. Even in the first boss battle alone, it was incredibly easy to spam one move and defeat the dreaded foes. Even playing on harder difficulties doesn’t seem to stop the one attack abuse from being possible. In theory, you would expect the boss battles to be much more challenging, however most of the bosses you can just trump right over with a single series of button mashing. It is disappointing, but if that is the biggest drawback then you are doing very well.
Dust: An Elysian Tail makes itself known in its own regard, and to size this game up to the big named developers should be a crime. If you take the game and look at all it has offers, the price tag, and the circumstances behind its development, you can’t help but love this title. This review is only a rough outline of the initial experience, so you are implored to check out the actual product. It is about time we stop wishing for the next “COD killer” and focus on supporting the developers who give us refreshing titles instead. If you pick up this title today you should be very pleased with your purchase and the 20+ hours that await you upon starting.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5