What Heaven cannot take, the Devil must.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is a platform RPG video game by Humble Hearts, apparently the pen name of a game designer named Dean Dodrill. The player takes control of a character called Dust who is accompanied by a flying Nimbat called Fidget and a talking magical sword.
The completion time of this game varies between 10 and 20 hours depending on how much time the player wishes to spend completing side quests or returning to previous areas. The story does contain a number of simple twists and proceeds at a nice pace throughout the game, never feeling rushed or drawn out. The music and voice acting were also made to a high level and complemented the game very well. Additionally the script was very well done with the reviewer genuinely laughing at the banter between the three main characters – something which has not occurred in a long time. The hand drawn graphics were impressive; true blurriness is present in the graphics when the cut scenes focus on the characters but the reviewer believes this adds to the game’s charm.
There really is only one type of weapon available in the game, the sword Dust begins the game with, and although additional augments and armour can be worn they never change his appearance. There are two basic attacks which can be activated by pressing X or Y. The special attack called duststorm can enhance Fidget’s powers to build combo hits, pull dropped items or explosive berries to the player or launch into the air and land multiple hits onto enemies. Later in the game certain enemies will require the player to use a parrying move in order to harm them. There are two limits built into the game, one is an energy bar which is depleted every time the player attacks, uses Fidget’s power or dodges and the second is a limit on how often the duststorm can be used in a given period of time. Empting the former means the player will not be able to dodge or use Fidget’s power until they allow some of it to regenerate, whereas emptying the latter will hurt the player and reset their combo count.
As the player kills enemies, talks to town people and completes quests they gain experience eventually levelling up when a certain threshold is reached. Extra experience can be gained by building massive combos during comat. The player is then given a skill gem which they can assign to attack, defence, health or duststorm and Fidget power. It is worth pointing out however on the easiest level the game will automatically assign these gems as soon as they are unlocked. Extra skills, such as double jump, cannot be unlocked by levelling, instead the player has to discover and collect skill orbs scattered throughout the game. The player can then return to previous locations on the map and visit inaccessible areas.
Items are also dropped by enemies when they are killed and can either be used to create equipment/augments or sold to shop keepers for a profit. A nice touch is shop inventory will be constantly refreshed during the game so if the player does not want to hunt for rare items it is possible to purchase the required ingredients from them directly.
After defeating certain mini bosses in the game Fidget will unlock new powers which the player can scroll through by using the right bumper. Certain powers work best with specific enemies so trial and error is required to work out the correct combination to use.
Treasure Keys can be purchased from shops or found in hidden locations and can be used to unlock treasure chests to collect additional money, items or release ‘friends’. By sacrificing four keys and releasing friends Dust gains a permanent 5% health boost.
So where did this game lose its only point? Some of the areas in the game felt stretched out with a few more areas seemingly added to boost the playing time by 10 to 20 minutes. Then in order to give the player something to do n these extended areas certain enemies were copied over and over, occasionally making the reviewer feel they were overused. These areas could have been removed, possibly replaced by puzzles which seem to be strangely missing from this platform game, without any detrimental effect.
Amazingly this game appears more or less bug free. Not once during the game did the reviewer get kicked to the dashboard, see graphical errors, notice typos or encounter bugged quest trees which require console access to fix. The reviewer went out of the way to replicate some of the problems reported by other sites which delayed this review by a day. The list of testing includes using several Xbox360s – old and new style -, moving save files over the cloud, pulling power during play, swapping and using different displays, moving saves via flash drives, swapping to different profiles and relaunching the game to finally playing from a USB stick. Only by playing from the USB stick did the reviewer manage to corrupt his save game but this was quickly and painlessly corrected by restoring from a backup file.
Dust has a price tag of £8.50, or around $15, and weighs in at 600MB. The reviewer would recommend it to seasoned and newcomers to platform games. Although this 2D world touches upon serious topics it has loveable characters and humorous interactions.
Impressive all of this work could be performed by, more or less, one person.