Prior to playing this game, if you told me that I would enjoy a title that at its core, is about sweeping or vacuuming up dust, I would not have been able to chase you away from me fast enough. Dustforce is one of those platformers that will keep you addicted from the second you start playing, will cause you to pull your hair out within the first 30 minutes, and will make you come back for more and more regardless of how patchy and bloody your scalp becomes.
Dustforce was originally released for the PC, Mac, and Linux last year, but is now being ported to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PS Vita by Capcom. The game has enjoyed success on the aforementioned platforms and has benefited from sales by itself and as a part of 2012’s Humble Indie Bundle 6. The big question I asked when approaching this demo for the first time was whether or not this game would translate well to a console and its controls; the answer is a resounding “yes.”
What do you think of when you have to clean up and there’s a lot of dust around? You tell yourself that you need to get the job done as soon as possible, fast and efficiently. Barring my quaint comparison, that is essentially the basis for the gameplay of Dustforce. Players can choose one of four main characters, all of whom contain a uniqueness determined by subtle differences in their stats (and are evenly two men, and two women), providing challenges to the player not only from the levels they enter, but from how each character is able to approach these levels. The objective to clear these levels, is to run around and sweep all of the dust on the surfaces. This is completed by running, jumping, double-jumping, leaping, and sliding. Players can even run up and down walls, and even upside-down. The possibilities are seemingly limitless given the variability as how the player can combine these maneuvers and get around, and the game provides a variety of both linear levels that provide specific challenges, and non-linear levels that encourage creativity and thoughtfulness.
The more alluring aspect of Dustforce‘s gameplay is how simple it is, and how easy it is to pick up the game and play. Many of its attributes are defined by a distinct old-school feel. The platforming is fast, and yet at times extremely hazardous. The game teaches you through repetition and through showing you the most basic of its challenges before quickly putting you through the gauntlet and making you really work. This is where all of that frustration comes in. However, it is worth it as the pace and fast-loading times make it easy to accept your mistakes, learn from them, and continue. This is experienced best in levels that are modeled with a strong sense of linearity. Other levels, which offer a more open-ended path structure, did not feel as engaging; Dustforce is arguably at its best in its linear form. Having a winding, twisting, and turning level that conforms to an overall straight-forward design is more conducive to the speed and flow that are at the heart of the game’s potential.
The game’s score is one of the best I have heard for its genre and scope. Very much like Bit.Trip Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, the score is at a similar tempo and pace with the player when they get up to speed. Listening to the music influenced my control of the character on-screen and helped me become more in-sync with the obstacles and patterns that would appear. As a result, the game’s feeling of fluidity and smoothness were greatly expanded upon.
While there are some drawbacks in the game’s delivery of information, specifically pertaining to the attributes of the four playable characters and paths through the more open levels, Dustforce is a fun and engaging platformer, worthy of its place in the console market. The controls and pacing of the game have been adapted excellently for a console controller, and function just like the aforementioned Bit.Trip Runner 2, as well as Super Meat Boy, while offering a completely unique platforming experience.
Dustforce was developed by Hitbox Team and will be ported to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PS Vita by Capcom, set to release sometime in January of 2014. The version I previewed was running on a PlayStation 3.
For more details on the game, check out all of our Dustforce news.