+Great visual style
-Annoying double jump mechanic
-Requires nothing but perfect runs
-Half the levels are locked at the beginning
Final score: 7 / 10
Controller support: Yes
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7
Processor: Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz or equivalent
Hard Disk Space: 400MB Free Space
Video Card: Dedicated graphics card with Shader Model 2.0 support
Seeing as how we’re faced with another small game drought, as no big developer or publisher wants to release titles this close to the beginning of the year, Hitbox Team has decided to trump the trend and has just deployed Dustforce on the PC.
The game focuses on a team of four janitors that need to navigate all sorts of environments that are filled with different kinds of debris. From dust (obviously) to tree leaves, garbage or chemical sludge, players, alongside their characters, need to sweep it up in the most efficient way possible.
Given its sharp graphics and interesting premise, we decided to give Dustforce a shot and see if it’s worth your attention or if it needs to be swept under the rug.
Clean different environments ...
... and defeat your enemies
Dustforce kicks off with a great cinematic showing off the acrobatic abilities of its four main characters. The first is the blue janitor, a simple guy with a broom, followed by a red woman, with a slightly different broom, a purple little girl with two pompom-like feather dusters, and a green old guy with a vacuum cleaner on his back. While the aforementioned characters are definitely an odd bunch, they all have a variety of animations and moves that will help players throughout their cleaning adventures.
Once you actually start the game, you’re simply thrown into an overworld of sorts, called the Nexus, which you need to navigate in order to find levels you can tackle and levels you can unlock. You have four basic areas, a forest one, where you need to sweep leaves, a mansion one, where you need to sweep dust, a city one, where you need to collect garbage, and a laboratory, where sludge needs cleaning up. Besides the actual debris, these levels are filled with enemies that will attack you so you need to fight back by using your brooms, dusters or vacuums with light or heavy attacks.
Sadly, Dustforce stays true to the classic platformer recipe, as its levels may seem relatively easy, in case you just try to complete them, but are actually extremely complex, if you try to ace them and get the ‘S’ rating in the two scoring categories, Completion and Finesse.
As such, expect some levels to really get your blood boiling, requiring sharp muscle memory and split second reactions from players, much like classic titles including Sonic the Hedgehog or more recent ones like Super Meat Boy.
Unfortunately, the keyboard controls don’t exactly help players, so you might want to try the game out right from the get go with a controller. Its support is a bit awkward, however, as you need to go into the settings menu and then map out each button to their function.
Dustforce also has issues with some of its actual mechanics, the most annoying being the double jump one. Unlike most games, where you can execute the second jump whenever you feel like it, Dustforce has only a tiny window in which the second jump can be achieved. As such, in case you missed it, prepare for a death or get ready for another attempt, both of which negatively impact your final rating in both categories.
In order to score S at Completion you need to dust every single piece of garbage/dust/leaf/sludge in the level in a continuous combo, while Finesse requires you to avoid dying or getting hit by enemies. Although in the first couple of levels this isn’t that hard, once you start experiencing new ones, you may as well kiss your S ratings goodbye, especially if you don’t have the time to try out the levels time and time again before you get them right.
This might not be so bad but you need these perfect scores if you want to get keys that are used to unlock bonus levels. As such, while the regular game has over 50 levels, you’ll barely be able to access half of them unless you’re really good or really dedicated.
These obstacles, like the awkward controls or absurd unlocking system, are a shame, as the game has a great visual style which is certainly a breath of fresh air, as opposed to the conventional 8 or 16-bit platformers we’re seeing nowadays.
What’s more, Dustforce also has a stunning soundtrack filled with great chiptune-based songs that will help alleviate some of the game’s annoyances, although not all of them.
Hitbox Team wants to add a level editor in the near future, but it’s going to take a while before players will be able to crank up new levels for the game.
Dustforce allows you to play locally with up to four players, as you can map out their controls by using the menu screen. You can only play with others in one of two scenarios: King of the Hill or Survival. The first concentrates on one or two players creating dust and the others trying to sweep it up. The second basically allows you to clobber each other and, hopefully, push someone into the various spike pits.
While the multiplayer matches are relatively interesting and there are plenty of maps to choose from, things get boring pretty fast and you can’t have that many people use a keyboard at the same time.
The leaderboards option is nice however, as besides comparing your score with those of your friends, you can check out replays from the top 10 players on that particular level who are much, much better than you at the game and, hopefully, steal a couple of moves that eluded you.
Explore the big overworld ...
... and score perfect runs
Dustforce is a decent game with great visuals and an addictive soundtrack. Sadly, its platformer gameplay isn’t that polished so you’ll find yourself cursing at the screen when failing that dreaded double jump or when you miss tiny bits of garbage.
If you enjoyed lessons in patience and muscle memory like Super Meat Boy, then you might find a decent challenge in Dustforce. If you don’t like getting annoyed, however, you might want to steer clear of it.