Dustforce has been a big indie darling for the past two years on PC, and has finally made its way to core gaming systems thanks to a Vita and PS3 release. After Super Meat Boy, the world was ready for another precision platformer, and Dustforce did just that while managing to stand out thanks to a unique visual style and setup. As a member of the dustforce, you as one of four characters go through and clean up debris. Depending on the character, you’ll either use a broom or a vacuum – although each does the same basic thing. You run through each level and just passing over things will get rid of them. The goal is to not just get through a stage, but get through while getting rid of all of the stuff on-screen. If you miss anything that can be cleaned up, your score will go down. Given that speedrunning and efficiency are the main things you’ll be judged on, you’ll need to be on-point to truly excel.
If the idea of having to raise your game constantly is a bit terrifying, the developers have retained the PC version’s ability to craft replay clips so you can see what you’ve done – and also see what those higher on the leaderboards have done. It’s a tough game, but controls really well and the fluidity of everything is impressive. Much like going from a Super Mario platformer to Prince of Persia, the slickness of the animation will blow you away. You’ll be thankful for it because it allows you to nail your timing down frame-by-frame. You’ll figure out the right way to do things and the wrong ways, and there are a great many wrong ways.
Like the PC version, the PS3 version controls marvelously. Given how precise everything needs to be, that’s a blessing – and thanks to the PS3 pad having a better d-pad than the 360, the precise platforming needed to do well is a bit easier to pull off here than it was using a 360 pad on a PC. The controls take some getting used to because there’s a lot of precise timing to get accustomed to. Running on ceilings and then chaining dashes and double jumps make it an exercise in trial and error. The game is frustrating at times, but you’ll never have more fun being angry at a game. Every time you curse it under your breath, you’ll realize that you made 2% more progress than before, and then revel in that victory until you pick up the skills to get 10% better before busting out some champagne to celebrate a victory over a level. Even accessing a level can be tough because they’re accessed via a hub world that requires you to do some precision platforming to even reach the level. There’s a small collectathon element to things as you have to do well to earn keys, and you use the keys to unlock additional levels.
Unfortunately, the beloved level creator from the PC version isn’t going to be included on any console incarnation. It’s a real shame since, while the game offers up around 50 levels, having user-generated content gives the game unlimited replay value. Luckily, a “best of” pack of them will be made available for free down the line, and as it stands now, the default stages and leaderboard functionality are enough to warrant multiple playthroughs because of how well-crafted the stages themselves are. Due to this issue though, it makes the console version harder to recommend than the PC version, since that version tends to cost a lot less and gives you more value for your money.
Visually, the flat-shaded visuals are amazing. Beyond the smooth animation, the use of an animated look without a regular black outline allows the game to stand out and makes the colors pop even more. There’s a ton of color on-screen at once, with foregrounds offering up things like black and green forestry, with purple spikes standing out vividly – like a purple tree in the Simpsons. Things look just realistic enough while still being a bit silly – it’s a good mix. The animation is some of the smoothest you’ll see in a 2D platformer. The redone Rayman games have been the recent kings of 2D, but this game features far more impressive animation than either of them. Character movements are exaggerated, but seem far more realistic due to the proper proportions for all of the characters in the game.
Dustforce’s soundtrack is sublime. Every song in the OST is relaxing and serves as a stark contrast to the speed-centric platforming action. When you’re rushing through every level, it might seem more fitting to have something with a quick tempo to it to listen to, but when you hear what this game offers up, you see that the slower fare makes the experience more enjoyable. It adds a small “stop and smell the roses” vibe to things, and the OST itself is fun to listen to outside of the game when you just want to relax. You can get on a big aromatherapy kick, play the soundtrack, and enjoy a soothing afternoon.
At $10, Dustforce offers up a lot of value for platforming fans. If you love a hearty challenge, or simply enjoy a gaming experience that forces you to get better, then you’ll get your money’s worth. While it may not be as good a value as the PC version, since the pricing for each version is so low, this is one game you can easily justify double-dipping on in order to have it available on any platform. The Vita release is a brilliant idea as well since it enables you to play it wherever you are and on a screen that allows the bright colors to pop. A free demo is available for both the PS3 and Vita versions, so give it a shot and if you dig it, spend the $10 to support the game. It’s a super-smooth platformer worth playing for any fan of the genre.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a digital copy of Dustforce for the PlayStation 3 provided by Capcom.