It’s with great pleasure that I’m able to announce that I’ve already found a game in 2012 that I feel like I’m going to be talking about for the rest of the year, suggesting at every turn to friends looking for a delightful game at a decent price.
In Dustforce you play as one of four different janitors and your goal is to clean up all the trash in a level. While admittedly that doesn’t sound very exciting, the full game is one of the most delightfully fun and difficult platformers I’ve had the pleasure of playing in a long time.
From your first look at either the visual style of Dustforce or your first time seeing the game in action you’d be forgiven for comparing it to games like Super Meat Boy or N+, and to the game’s favor you actually wouldn’t be that far off but the truth is that Dustforce truly is it’s own entity. Things start off simply enough as you run through the courses, picking up all the dust along the way. But it’s not until you reach that end-screen and see your ranking that the truth really sets in.
Dustforce enforces a familiar letter ranking system in two categories based on how well you did: dust collection and finesse. That’s all fine, until you realize that to unlock a new level you have to earn a key and the only way to earn a key is to get the highest level in both categories on any given level.
Now the fun truly begins.
Even when you finally do nail that sought after Double S rating, the fun still isn’t over as Dustforce has a deep and well thought out leaderboard system that will leave you trying over and over again to top your friend because that jerk went and beat the same level three seconds faster than you somehow. Thankfully the game also incorporates a full replay feature so you can check out just how they did that.
The last game to do that this well was Trials HD, and I spent many hours playing through that game in an attempt to secure my leaderboard domination, being forced to go back and re-claim my throne should one of my friends decide to challenge me. I’m hoping all of my friends pick up Dustforce so I can continue that throughout the year. I managed to secure a few Top 10 and even a couple of #1 finishes against the developers and other journalists reviewing the game, but that’s not as satisfying as stomping somebody you actually know.
It must be said that the visuals and art style of the game are absolutely striking. When you first boot up you’re treated to a very delightfully animated cutscene introducing you to the characters and this art style persists through the full game. The characters themselves are well animated. I particularly love the way they actually sweep their broom (or other cleaning instrument) back and forth as they cross the dust which itself is bizarre in how much it adds to the visual style.
There are many different types of dust depending on the theme of the level you’re on and on each one it stands out in stark contrast to it’s surroundings and is always easy to visually spot. Even more satisfying is the delightful way it disappears when you collect it, fading away into nothing.
Dustforce isn’t all platforming though, as there is a small amount of combat mixed in. Thankfully it’s as well done as the rest of the game and only adds to the experience rather than detracting from it. The enemies are well varied, and fit in with the cleaning aspect in that they’re covered with dust and once you clean them off they stop being hostile towards you. I always love seeing the bears fall asleep once you’ve cleaned them up.
The game is sadly not without it’s flaws but then again I’m hard pressed to think of a game that is. Similarly to Super Meat Boy it’s entirely possible to play the game with a keyboard but the amount of precision required in the controls as well as the way the few actions can combine to create more complex maneuvers can make this difficult if not downright frustrating. The game does support a gamepad but this isn’t made very clear in the menus. While you have it plugged in you just press the buttons on your controller on the remapping screen like you would with the keyboard. I didn’t figure this out for a little while, but not that big of a deal.
Sometimes the controls can get a little screwy on you in strange ways as well. The game features a double jump that is absolutely vital to your progression, with various rules on how it recharges. It’s supposed to return any time you perform a wall jump, touch the ground, collect dust or strike an enemy but there have been a few times where I’ve performed one of these and didn’t have a double jump when I took off again.
Similarly if you jump too late off of a platform (towards the edge) the game sometimes seems to count that as both jumps. There was one segment I got stuck on and had to remember to jump before the edge to make it give me both of my jumps.
These complaints are very minor though and don’t actually detract from the experience at all. Even with these small gripes I found myself having an absolute blast with Dustforce and was constantly booting it up to try another level just one more time. The build I received was slightly unfinished with a few levels being unavailable so I look forward to going back and checking those out. I’m not even close to having seen all of the levels present in the game, and that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that a level editor is on the way (it’s present on the main hub but says “Coming Soon” when you try to enter).
If a strong community base builds itself up for this game, Dustforce could be a game many people are playing for a very long time to come now. The game exudes quality from every pore of it’s essence and has set the bar fairly high for being such an early release this year. If you’re looking for a delightfully fun platforming game with just the right amount of “terrifying” difficulty, Dustforce might be the game for you.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go secure my leaderboard spots now that the game is publicly available.