If there were a poll about which household chore is the most hated, dusting would be right near the top. Often neglected, it seems ridiculous that someone would actually make a game about cleaning up dust, but that’s exactly what Hitbox Team did in 2012. Dustforce wasn’t some mundane title – it was an incredibly fast-paced, exciting experience. It took a while, but the game has finally arrived on PS3 and Vita where it will definitely find legions of new fans.
Players take on the role of one of four janitors tasked with cleaning up some seriously dusty locations. Dust (and fallen leaves) cling to all surfaces whether they be floors, walls or ceilings. After selecting a character, choosing how exactly to combat the piles of dust is up to you. That’s because levels are not completely linear. There’s a lot of room for improvisation, as well as ways to get back into the swing of things if you make a mistake. After a stage is complete it is graded for how much dust was collected as well as how long players kept a combo going.
Combos are a big part of the Dustforce experience. They also take a good deal of work to get skilled at, but it is so worth it. Every time dust is collected or an enemy is defeated, the combo meter increases. As with most games, if you fail to continue stringing it along then it will eventually reset. The hard part about keeping a combo in Dustforce is that it requires players to become speedy janitors. At the start, it can be hard enough to get enough momentum going to run upside down, much less race through an entire stage.
Thankfully, most early stages are not difficult. This leaves a ton of room for players to hone their skills. If all goes well, you’ll eventually pick up on the many finer points and make great time on stages. Just make sure you don’t forget to collect all the dust particles along the way! Taking care to both be a clean freak and speed demon pays off in the form of keys. Although many stages are unlocked by default, there are tons more that aren’t. Most stages are of the free running platformer variety, but there are a few variations on the formula as well.
Dustforce keeps players on their toes. As they continue to dig through levels, an increasing difficulty creeps in. Some of the tasks required of the player start to feel downright mean in their precision. Everything is certainly doable, but there are more than a few occasions that may cause frustration. Make sure to not be entirely reliant on one character, as they might be limiting you. Each has their own specialty and some stages are less of a challenge if you pick the right one.
The game is at its best once you have gained sufficient understanding of how to utilize wall jumps, dashes, broom strikes, and everything else in just the right ways. Recalling how you might have slowly bounded around stages at the start will seem silly as your pace increases tenfold over a playthrough. It is hard to describe just how cool it feels to see your janitor sweeping, wall running, and speedily jumping all the while keeping up a ridiculous combo. To get the most out of Dustforce you must obtain some level of competency, but once you do, it’ll be hard to put down.
Integral to the experience is its crisp visuals. The world is painted in muted tones which definitely makes it look different from most platformers. It also has a cartoon style aesthetic for the characters and enemies rather than the pixel art style so typical of the genre. Still screenshots might look good, but you absolutely need to see the game in motion. Each character’s animation flows precisely with player input and is given a true sense of speed. If the animation had been lacking it would have hurt the experience. Thankfully, the developers went above and beyond to create excellently animated characters.
There’s another part to Dustforce that would have made it a lesser game had it been lacking – the music. The soundtrack, composed by Lifeformed, is simply astonishing. Each track is good far beyond the confines of the game itself. Alongside the experience, music also motivates the player to keep trying. There were instances where I wanted to give up on stages and found myself pressing onward simply to get more of the music. A lot of games have good music these days, but Dustforce is in a class of its own. Give it a listen sometime and see if you can stop yourself from buying the soundtrack immediately after.
If you’re looking for an incredibly nuanced platformer, Dustforce is an excellent choice. Playing it on the PS3 is a lot of fun, even if it leaves one hankering for the DualShock 4 instead. With fluid animation, an astonishing soundtrack, and nearly sixty levels (with more to come) to complete, it’s hard to say no. Even nearly two years after its initial release, there’s nothing else quite like Dustforce out there.
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 3