GAME NAME: Dust: An Elysian Tail
DEVELOPER(S): Humble Hearts
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox Live Arcade
GENRE(S): Action role-playing game
RELEASE DATE(S): 15 August 2012
Dust: An Elysian Tail is an example of everything gone right in the gaming industry. After being awarded the Microsoft Dream/Build/Play award in 2009, Dean ‘Noogy’ Dodrill practically single handedly designed what can only be described as a true masterpiece.
You take control of Dust, a character that has little background. In fact he knows very little about himself. Dust is quickly acquainted with sidekicks and often mentors Fidget and the Blade of Ahra. Fidget is an ultra-cute Nimbat who flies alongside Dust, assisting him and Ahra in their attacks. The characters lend themselves to the storyline superbly. The combination of characters, themes, and hand-painted environments all combine into an unforgettable experience.
An Elysian Tail is a 2D action side-scroller with basic RPG elements which has simple and flowing controls. The combination of attacks at your disposal, combined with the assistance rendered by Fidget to perform those attacks, will help you build up combos with relative ease providing you aren’t on the receiving end of an enemy attack halfway through. Many modern games still struggle with tacky controls and glitchy movement so it is a refreshing change to see Dust, an indie title, sustaining a high standard of movement and attacks.
An Elysian Tail provides a wide-ranging system to equip Dust with additional equipment to hone your fighting approach. The upgrades make a instant change in Dust’s power and what once seemed like a tough opponent will soon become a foe hardly worth the effort with the right kit equipped. The bits and pieces of equipment collected after slaying hoards of enemies can be combined into armour, rings, power pendants and many more such items to increase various stats to assist Dust along his quest. This is a welcome feature in a 2D side-scroller but doesn’t ‘force’ you to just mindlessly hoard/loot items, bar a few side quests. The merchants will also provide rarer items to you once the original item has been allocated to their inventory upon being sold to them, a practical solution for obtaining multiple rarities.
There is no online play for this title. In fact if there was it simply wouldn’t fit in, this is a single player title and was always meant to be just that. If anything it is a blessing that online wasn’t forced into this title as seen in so many recent offerings. Each chapter does however have an event arena which challenges you to complete a series of death traps in a given time where you can compare times/score with your XBL friends and adds to the game’s already addictive replay value.
The game will take less than 10 hours to complete if you ignore the side quests ,which is impressive considering that many ‘big production’ games can’t hold your attention for even 5 hours. The engulfing storyline keeps you interested as to what the outcome will be. Some of the character monologues can be exasperating at time but when keeping in mind that you are dealing with a particular type of character everything falls into place. The contrast between your allies Ahra and Fidget is humorous at the best of times as there contrasting personalities shine through. For the (very reasonable 1200M$ Point) price, if you only download one title from XBLA this year be sure to make it this… and beware of the ‘Evil Knife Hands’… eeeeeeeeeek.