Dustforce Review (PC)
Some of my favorite video games ever are platformers. Super Meat Boy and Sideway are the only pure platformers that comes to mind (what with my mind being like a test dummy at an atom bomb test site) but games like Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank and Jak and Daxter had decent platforming with some additional elements thrown in that really helped the games. But now I can another game to my list of favorites with Dustforce.
There isn’t much of a story that I could see. From what I can tell you play as one of the four members of the titular Dustforce, an elite group of janitors whose job it is to rid the world of all the dust and filth. Unfortunately, the dust and filth in this world has gained sentience. It has the ability to take over living things, such as animals and people, as well as give inanimate objects some mobility, like making books fly and statues come alive. Each of the four playable characters have different physics to them. Some of them are heavier, some are lighter, some have shorter or longer attack ranges. I didn’t get too far in to the game to get a real look at each one of them but I just defaulted to the main guy since he is the most balanced.
The playable characters and story are not fleshed out all, really. In fact, aside from what I said up there I don’t think there is any more to the story. The characters are just there for the gameplay, and it’s awesome. Since this is a PC and Mac release its native control scheme is the keyboard. When I tried to play Meat Boy on the PC I couldn’t do it. That game was too fast paced for me to be able to play with keys instead of a controller, plus I had gotten used to the controller scheme and anything else would’ve felt wrong. But with this game the keyboard controls work surprising well. I was able to rattle off jump combos well enough and any instances of me fucking up and dying felt like they were my own fault and not any fault of the controls. But if you want it the game comes with built-in controller support (I think) so you can just plug in and go.
Another reason that this game works well with the keyboard is that it’s slower than Meat Boy. In Meat Boy you push the boost button and your off, instantly reaching top speeds. In Dustforce you build up your speed as you move, sliding down hills and such to build momentum. And that’s what Dustforce is all about. There was one level that I tried to get through so many times it was insane but I couldn’t do it because I kept losing my momentum before the jump I needed to make. If I tried to run and jump from the platform it led to horrible spiky death so I needed to restart the level in order to build my speed back up. In any other kind of game having to restart a level because you stopped moving would be insane and frustrating as fuck, but in this kind of platformer it works.
On top of the platforming there is a combat mechanic, which I mentioned above. Like I said, the dust and crap in this game can take control of objects and animals, making them hostile. So instead of avoiding them you can attack them with your cleaning instrument. Players can do light attacks and heavy attacks. Light attacks do the damage and clean up the enemies, returning them to their original states. If you are attacking enemies in the air, the light attacks can give you a bit of forward momentum to help make it across large gaps and whatnot. The heavy attacks actually knock the crap off the enemies and puts it on the environment so you can sweep it up that way. These attacks also give you some momentum in the air and have a further range of attack than light attacks. Some of the enemies lunge at you, cancelling all your momentum and breaking your combo, so the heavy attacks are best used on them. You can also use a super attack which cleans up all the enemies and the environment on screen. You fill up the meter for this attack with your combo.
Oh yeah, you can have a combo in this game. The combo is measured by both the attacks done on enemies and the number of pixels of dirt or something you clean up. If you don’t attack or run over some dirt within five seconds your combo is reset. Now that doesn’t reset your super bar but you want to complete each level with one complete combo because that affects your rating at the end. The highest rank on each stage is S/S, which means that you cleaned up the entire level without missing a single patch of dirt and you completed the level in one combo. Aside from bragging rights, having an S/S ranking unlocks more levels for you to play.
There are three types of levels that I could see. First there is your open levels. These are the easiest levels in a given area and are unlocked from the minute you press Start Game. Getting an S/S ranking on one of those gets you a key which can be used to unlock a Silver level. These are more difficult levels to complete and more difficult to actually get to. All the level entrances are in a hub world type thing and you need to platform to be able to reach them, which I thought was really cool. If you can’t even reach the level entrance you are nowhere near qualified to play it. If you get an S/S ranking on a Silver level you get a key which unlocks a Gold level, which are presumably harder to complete and harder to get to. Aside from the hard to get to part that is just speculation, since I don’t think I even completed a Silver level let alone S/S ranked one.
Probably the most interesting part about this game is the multiplayer aspect of it. The two modes of multiplayer the game has, Competitive and Co-operative, could not be more different from each other. In each mode you can have a total of four players, two as members of the Dustforce and two as the Dustforce’s arch-nemeses who, instead of cleaning up the dirt or leaves or whatever, actually lays down a layer of dirt or leaves or whatever as they walk. In the Co-op mode the nemeses guys make the world all messy and the Dustforce guys clean it up, each one building a combo meter and super meter to deal with the enemies and the platforming they have to do since the Co-op levels are very similar to the single player style of levels. In Competitive mode, it turns into Smash Bros., with the players on a single platform and trying to knock each other off into oblivion. The cool part of the Competitive mode is the risk/reward involved in running of the ground versus staying in the air much as possible. By running along the entire ground you fill up your super meter but your opponent is cleaning up your mess and also filling up their super meter. By staying in the air you don’t run that risk but it’s easier to be knocked off the edge when you’re not on the ground.
If you have listened to our Video Games podcast then you have probably heard talk about the technical issues I have been having with this game, mainly that I haven’t been able to run it on my computer. The PC version of the game requires a dedicated graphics card to run and my laptop doesn’t have one. But thankfully, since I got my copy of the game from Hitbox Team, the PR lady I was in contact with was very helpful and answered my questions and even got help from the designers for the issues I was having. This didn’t let me play the game on my laptop but they were a great help either way and I felt it was worth mentioning.
After five fucking months of talking about it I finally finished my Dustforce review. As I’ve been saying all along I love this game. The platforming gives that same, almost euphoric, feeling of superiority when you finally manage to make it through a level that you failed like 9000 times, the combat mechanics add an interesting layer onto the platforming that I enjoyed, the multiplayer is just cool and the game looks just great. If you have a PC with a dedicated graphics card and are looking for a game to scream at in frustration, Dustforce is your game.
Final Score: 5/5