All good things come to those who wait – as the saying goes, and Humble Hearts 2D hand-painted RPG platformer is a cracking way to end the Summer of Arcade promotions on a high. Dust: An Elysian Tail is the greatest game in this year’s bag of supposed high-quality Arcade pickings, and if you could only pick just one game in the Summer of Arcade – this is the one to own! Although it should have been released in late 2011, Microsoft has made a great decision in holding it back for the summer promotions this year and we hope it has done really, really well…
If Dust: An Elysian Tail sounds like a familiar title from years ago, but you can’t quite put your finger on where you first heard of it – the game was originally targeted for the Xbox 360 Indie Games channel, but it had successfully won the 2009 Microsoft Dream.Build.Play Challenge to secure an Xbox LIVE Arcade release (and added Achievements, Avatar Awards) as well as netting the developer Dean Dodrill a whopping $40K in prize money! We’re not quite sure if he will receive extra income from sales though…not that it’s a concern, but just a thought not thought of until now.
So, let’s crack on – you take on the role of Dust, the main character within the game who is a mysterious warrior, and your ever following sidekick is ‘Fidget’ a flying fox that assists at all the right times in all the right places, possibly a character that pays homage to Tails in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, only with a voice? Who knows, but the resemblance and similarities are all too similar to look at. Each chapter (or segment is more key) holds a mysterious and mythical feel throughout many of the quests whilst all the action comes from having to make your way from one path to another in the story knocking out many enemies whilst learning new abilities and skills. As Dust, you must master the ancient Blade of Ahrah to battle an onslaught of enemies throughout the open magical world, and uncover the story of an ancient civilization on the brink of extinction as you fight to uncover your own past. The Blade of Ahrah is not only a weapon, but guide in the right direction – a force that will help you master your destiny.
Primarily though , Dust’ is more of an action-adventure platformer just with very familiar RPG elements such as character levelling, Inventory, Map, and Quest log’s all accessed from the menu options. It does lack the exploration of a decent RPG, but the skills and abilities of the main character is a genius way to bring a platformer into a whole new dimension if not genre altogether. Cross-combined with hand drawn visuals and perfect voice-over segments the game feels like an interactive animated movie – not to mention its challenging combat!
In bright, fun and animated 2D glory, enemies within Dust’ come in all shapes and sizes with varying degrees of difficulty to slay them. You must master a set of skills that can involve throwing projectiles, and more often a button mashing combo to perform advanced moves that require timing and precision. By defeating enemies you will gain Experience points and gold that will further contribute to you levelling up and buying items respectively. Whilst the options you choose do not necessarily reflect a change of gameplay like a heavy RGP, but the open world quests provide greater options and extra depth to keep longevity. To add even more gameplay time is the option of side-quests to boost points and Challenge Arena’s that set you additional tasks for yet even more points…and the more points you have the greater amount of power in your levelling up choices are open. There’s also the usual and ever familiar need to search for Key’s and Treasure Chests that bring gifts and items needed to help you on your journey.
When Dust receives enough points through defeating enemies and completing quests – and has eventually levelled up, a Skill Gem is unlocked that can be spent in the Inventory to boost up any of the four character attributes from Health, Attack, Defence and Fidgets Projectile’s. From here it is how you spend your Skill Gems that determine your overall survival ability – spend too much on one attribute without focussing on others is pretty much a fail, but for a more casual experience you can switch on Auto-Levelling, but it feels less tailored to your preferred gameplay.
Whilst going for the more platforming approach than RPG, it is not without a heavy hit of interacting with the games other characters that you meet on your journey. Some provide clues for quests and others will help you buy items and use your collected materials to craft new items. Although it is very simplistic in nature and design, Dust’ is a gripping journey that will leave you wanting to see more and more of its beautifully hand-drawn scenery and chapters – even though it has a pretty forgetful story because so long as you can manage to keep running to the right and fight your way with the X button – there’s not a lot else to be done and it might at times feel a little repetitive.
Considering the extremely small team behind Dust: An Elysian Tail, it is a remarkable and entertaining quest that beholds the eyes with outstanding artistic designs and voice acting that compliments through-out – a rarity in itself!
A game that can be enjoyed by absolutely anyone, a total must-have for the Summer of 2012.