Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dust: An Elysian Tail Review

Well, it has been a while since the last time I tried to review something. Mostly because I found nothing to review. But a few days ago, I managed to finally be able to play a game I've been wanting to play for months, called `Dust: An Elysian Tail,` for the XBL Arcade, and today I finally got the Nexus 7 I ordered two months ago, so... I figured - why not?

Dust: An Elysian Tail, or as I'm going to call it for the rest of this block of text, Dust, is an indie platformer game that came out at around late 2012, based on a movie called `Elysian Tail,` that has been in the works since... the beginning of the last decade or so, and as far as I know, has yet to come out.

At the time of this review, the game is an XBLA exclusive, but a Steam release is scheduled to come out in another few days or so.

Again, I waited for months to play this game, and when I finally did...

Graphics:

The first thing to catch my eye when I played the game was the title screen, and how it was made. The entire title screen was gray, raining, a thunder-storm, and the game's logo crashing on the screen, in about two to three seconds before the title screen's options showed up. That title screen actually got me more interested about what I am going to see when playing this game.

When I did start playing this game... I have to say I was impressed and surprised at the same time. The entire graphics looks drawn. And I'm not talking about like Okami, where it is made of 3D models looking like an old Japanese paintings. I am talking about the fact that when you hold the picture still, it looks digitally drawn. Another thing is that I found pleasing was that every single character in the game, though not many, has a drawn animation, one or more, when talked to, to show between one or more emotions.

The last thing that comes to mind is the weather in this game. The weather is changing randomly every once in a while, between light, rainy, windy, or just cloudy. There are places with the weather built in and it will not change, but at quite a few places, it does. It does not affect much, true, but I found it to be a nice touch.

I give the graphics 10 out of 10. I did not find anything that I did not like about this game's graphics.


Sound:

Now, this is where I was truly shocked. For starters, the game's soundtrack is great, and it gets you in the mood of each and every level. The sound effects are great, and almost everything has a sound effect.
But the thing that shocked me was that every single conversation in this game is voiced. Every single one. Even the ones that aren't important, everything is voiced. And they all fit quite well! I very much enjoyed that fact, and not many games tend to do that.

Like with the graphics, I have no complaint with the sound. And like with the graphics, I give the game's sound a 10 out of 10.

Story:

As for the game's story... well...

We start off with an anthropomorphic blue fox wearing a big hat, as he stands alone in the woods, having no memory whatsoever regarding anything besides the fact that his name is 'Dust.' After about a second or so, a talking blade floats over to him, telling him that its name is Arah, and Dust summoned it.

Right after the blade appears, a tiny, flying, weird orange creature, later stated to be named a 'Nimbat,' flies over after the blade, and says that her name is Fidget, she's the blade's guardian, and that she'll follow him until he's done with Arah. Arah suggests that they go to the village east of there, and so they do. As they move on, Dust realizes that he has been there before, and so, their journey begins.

The story, although well-written and witty, making me laugh quite a few times along the game, can feel clichéd at times. It plays the amnesia card, something that has been done quite a few times, and at times can seem like a déjà-vu. The ending can be a bit surprising, though, and the characters are lovable. Well, most of them, at least.It even has a few notes to find that contain a bit of information which is not directly connected to the story, which was a nice addition.

The story is not perfect, and there was a part near the end where I literally had goose bumps because of how clichéd it was. But it is still interesting, surprising at some parts, funny at ones and sad on others. It even contains a nice explanation of Dust's name.

I think the story deserves 8 out of 10.


Gameplay:

Well, besides the regular two-dimensional platformer gameplay where you go left, right, jump, and crouch, it has a hackn'slash gameplay elements, where you beat up monsters. As you beat up monsters, you get coins, materials, blueprints, and even items you can use on your character for later use. More often than not, though, the game just felt like a re-press of the same buttons again and again, as you find a combo you like using and just keep doing it again and again to beat up monsters. On the same page, most bosses in the game do not really feel like bosses, but more like a regular enemy with a lot more life. That's practically all you can expect from most bosses.

As you beat monsters, you also get one stone for each level, to raise one of four stats: Attack, Defense, HP, and Fidget. Attack is how much damage you deal with each blow, Defense is how much will go down from the damage the monsters will deal each turn, HP is how much hit points you have, and Fidget is how much the Fidget attacks deal. The Fidget attacks are long-ranged attacks that your Nimbat friend uses at the press of a button.

The materials you get you can sell to the shop to add it to the list - every material that was sold in shops will be restocked after that. That means that if you get one material of some sort and sell it, you will later be able to buy more of the same material, which helps a lot on some of the side-quests.

The game also has side-quests. They mostly require you to find a few of a certain material, but they also include things like getting a one-thousand hit combo, or finding someone, for example.

Other than that, there is the treasure hunt. Every map has treasure to find, along with some trapped friends from other games you might know. Every box needs a key, though, which you can either try to find, or you can buy from the shop, up to six. Most you cannot reach until later on, though, so in order to 100% this game, you will have to come back later for it.

The gameplay is fun, but there are a few problems:

First of all, as you start the game, healing items from the shop are too expensive, and the only other way to heal is to stand on a save point, which will heal you up to half of your life in Normal Mode. I found myself struggling with my health more than once because of it.

The second is that the game uses cheap tricks to hide three or so treasure boxes. It is quite hard to figure out, unless you are very lucky, or you already know how to get there.

The third is that the game is really short. I found every single item in this game, beat all side-quests, and beat the game itself with 112%, according to the game, in about thirteen hours. As to replayability, there isn't much of a point after beating it and finding everything besides playing it on a higher difficulty.
Overall, the game is fun and addictive while it lasts, and my brother and I both enjoyed the game. It was well-worth the money we spent on it. I think it deserves 9 out of 10.


Overall:

It is a fun game, an interesting, though clichéd, plot, the graphics are nice to the eye, and the music is great. The game did not get that much attention, as far as I have seen, and I hope that the fact that the game is coming to Steam will change that, because I believe it deserves it more than yet another CoD installment. You should not buy this game, though, if you do not like platformer of any kind. I really can't think of another reason not to.

I give this game an overall score of 9 out of 10.

Now, please enjoy an oversized picture of Fidget.