As we come to the end of the last console generation, I have been thinking of what kind of games to cover. There happen to be a lot of games that came out for the Xbox Live and PSN that I wanted to cover, but for some reason or another, got buried under the workload. Games like Outland, Joe Danger, Gatling Gears, and today’s downloadable gem were on my work schedule, but got pushed back or didn’t get written up at all. This is one game I REALLY wanted to review due to its awesome gameplay and its amazingly beautiful 2D-animated art style. I always joked to myself about this game being as if Don Bluth actually made an action movie using his anthropomorphic animal-animated characters. I mean, I hope I am not the only one thinking this. However, if you look beyond that, you get one of the best 2D-action games on Xbox Live. I REALLY MEAN IT! This game is like Odin Sphere 2, if there was one! Today’s review is Dust: An Elysian Tail. Before I move on though, has anyone noticed that the word dust is used a lot in recent game titles? Am I the only one who sees this?
Let us get started then! The story takes place in a place called Falana, a world inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. You play as a cat guy named Dust, who has lost his memories, but comes upon a magical talking sword, which looks more like an awesome version of that singing sword from the Bugs Bunny cartoons. The sword’s guardian is this little flying animal thing named Fidget that accompanies Dust on his quest to find uncover his past, and stop an evil force from taking over the land. While the story might not be fully unique since we have seen this kind of story before, it is done well. The story can also be dark with some rather grim moments out of a world that is filled with furry humanized animals. The characters are memorable and the voicework is well done. There are no big named people doing the voicework, but instead are people that do voicework for flash animations and all sorts of internet entertainment. If you have seen any flash films or shorts, then you would have probably heard their voices in one place or another.
The gameplay featured in this title is of a 2D action side-scroller that is really set up like the Vanillaware classics mixed with a bit of Metroid, or if you prefer, Symphony of the Night. You take control of Dust as you perform a small, but sturdy set of sword moves. The combat isn’t complex. It is easy to pick up and play. Your little flying friend can also shoot these little spirit things that you can multiply into a million little spirit things by performing a specific move. You can basically turn the game into a bullet hell-shooter by swarming the screen with those little things your flying friend spits out of her mouth. Fidget can also learn other magical spells that will make the combat a bit more interesting if you are tired of wiping out a horde of enemies using the gigantic-bullet-hell-spirit attack thing. There are some small RPG elements, like side quests where you go through different villages, and talk to the townsfolk there. You can also gain stat boosts to your health, attack, and etc. The level layout is very much set up like a Metroid game or the later handheld Castlevania games, where you will have to backtrack throughout the levels to make it to your destination. It can be a bit cumbersome at times to go around said areas, but it’s not too complicated or tedious to get through the entire game. Overall, with a fun, if a bit button-mashy, combat system and a just downright beautiful art style, Dust will keep you interested in the 10 hours or so it will take for you to beat this game. There is no multiplayer, but seeing how a lot of games these days have tacked on multiplayer that is pointless but was shoved into the game before launch because the publisher said so, I’m happy that this 15 dollar game has enough value to its price tag to keep you interested in the single player experience.
Graphically speaking, this is probably the best-looking game on Xbox Live besides Bastion. Its 2D-art style just looks amazing, and everything is well animated. I will admit though that some of the character designs up close for the cut scenes look a bit simple, compared to how stupidly gorgeous everything else looks, but it’s a great graphical package for all the people that love a good art style and graphical presentation in the game. The music is solid and pulls you into the game’s world. The composer for this game that I could find info on is named Alexander Brandon. He has worked on many games, good and bad, like the N64 versions of the Vigilante 8 series, NARC, Hour of Victory, Alpha Protocol, and even did some work on some nostalgic PC titles like Jazz Jackrabbit 2 and other Epic Game titles. Oh, he has also done voice-over work, which is pretty cool in my opinion, when the composer gets to have some fun with the game being developed besides writing just the music. The voicework, like I said, is done well in the game. I doubt the creator could get enough money to hire big named people, but the voice actors I heard throughout my time in the game are wonderful. It just shows you don’t need to have huge names to help bring characters to life. That does help sometimes, but I think the cast they got for this game fits really well.
So, what are my, if any, complaints about this game? I feel like the enemies are pushovers. Sure, you get a few gigantic enemies or ones with shields to give you a bit more of a challenge, but if this game didn’t have a fun combat system, the combat would have felt lifeless. I also think the backtracking, like I said, while not being a total annoyance, can be a tad tedious at times. I wish this game had a layout design, something like Odin Sphere or something, since for me, backtracking has to be interesting, and from time to time in this game, it becomes boring. The RPG elements also could have been better since it has the same issue as Mirror of Fate does, where the upgrades are all automatic and don’t feel like a reward for grinding your way through hordes of easy enemies. I think some things could have been better, but a lot of the complaints I have are very minor and are not worth bringing up.
So, how does this game hold up? It is a fantastic game for Xbox Live, and you can also get this game on Steam. I can easily recommend this game if you are looking for a great action game for your Xbox360 before the next Xbox comes out. Sure, 15 bucks might be a bit much for a downloadable game, but I can think of much worse games you can be getting off Xbox Live. I hope we can see some kind of sequel or spiritual successor to this game because the next Xbox is going to need more than guys with guns to sell me a console.
This game gets an 8 out of 10.