Usually each year holds a few XBLA games that go above and beyond the call of duty. Dust is 2012′s. The Summer of Arcade concludes with Dust: An Elysian Tail. But how does it really pick up the quality?
Gameplay: The game is a Metroid-vania world with a Devil May Cry fight system with a classic RPG level up/loot system. Dust has a big canvas to work with. Using your nimbat companion, Fidget, you two trek through the lank taking on multiple enemies at a time. The higher your combo meter, the more XP you’ll land with.
Ultimately, the gameplay doesn’t change up too much throughout the course of the game. Fidget’s abilities evolve and there is a great variety of enemies, but your strategy will more than likely stay the same no matter what. Now, is that a negative? I don’t think so in this case. The combat is so much fun that you’ll barely notice how much things have stayed the same.
2D games haven’t ever been one to show off their enemy count in games. Another cool thing Dust does is that it truly throws a big amount of enemies at you at once to not only establish that this is in fact, a genocidal attack, but to give you enemies to constantly be knocking around the screen.
Presentation: Dust has a bunch of influences right off the bat. Connecting them is the fun part. You’ll hear references to old games, 4th wall breaking, all the stuff that’ll definitely make you chuckle. Voice acting and story is essential with this game, and while for me, the voice actors weren’t always the best, I still thought the massive majority of them were great.
The visuals are pristine. The animations are swift. The color palate is a force to be reckoned with. After the first few minutes with this game, I couldn’t stop thinking that this is the game that every XBLA game has a new graphics standard. Dust is fun to look at. That’s all that needs to be said.
The story itself is relatively strong. Is it notable and memorable? I can’t say so much. It does have an interesting twist that you may have thought you had predicted, which is a breath of relief. For a 8-12 hour game, you’ll be amused and entertained enough to enjoy the story without a doubt.
Value: The game features about 20 side-quests, a mini-game in the middle to compete on leaderboards, and the overall 10 hour campaign, including the side-quests.
There’s a few ways the game tries to keep you intertwined. There’s the loot system that you’ll find cartable items in and enough little easter eggs (like fellow indie game characters hidden throughout the game) to find that you may go back once or twice to go searching for. Progressing through the game, you’ll see that there are areas only accessible when you have a move that comes later in the game. Are you motivated to really do that? Some may be, however I don’t think most will. With a 10 hour campaign, I can’t knock that.
Final thought: Dust: An Elysian Tail is a prime example of how great the XBLA has come. We’ve passed the days of small bite-sized games. Dust exceeds in visuals, story, and personality. The gameplay beautifully mends an army of gamestyle and calls its own. While I can admit that Dust isn’t an experience for some, being that it’s very ambitious out of the gate, I will say that it exceeds in every aspect it has aimed for. I give Dust: An Elysian Tail an A+.