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When is the last time you found yourself playing a game on your computer, rather than on the console you brought from home? I’m not referring to your in-browser based websites games like Kongregate or God forbid, Facebook. I refer to the unique experience of what are classified as Indie games (short for independent, like in music). It is in these smaller games that you often get the most creativity out of a developer because there is no higher company, holding the purse strings, that restricts and compresses what you need to accomplish. Now because there is no publisher associated with the product (example would be Activision publishes Call of Duty) there comes the risk of these smaller games going unnoticed, meaning the inevitable extinction of the developer, which is something this review will hopefully change. This is not me saying that all independent games are good, high quality, or worth playing; however, some do rise above the rest and deserve the small price tag of five to ten dollars. That is where DustForce comes in, as the first in the series of indie games.

            Truth be told, I do not have my console with me on campus, a luxury I cannot afford. Only because of Steam (virtual download software) can I ever get access to full AAA retail releases like Call of Duty (which I personally would only play on Xbox) or Portal 2, but as a college student I am also aware that spending sixty dollars on a new game once a month is a ludicrous notion, we have to buy food right? So it is within the safe haven of Steam’s support of indie developers that I am able to enjoy games that not only cost less, but are often more enjoyable and create a more enjoyable stand-alone experience than most games on the shelves at GameStop (excluding AAA titles which are actually fun). So now the question is what is DustForce?

            Trying to find a good description for what DustForce is to someone who doesn’t have the faintest idea of what I am talking about is difficult. If after this review you are intrigued by the game I would suggest watching the video gameplay on YouTube or under the purchase section on Steam, just so you can get a better sense of what I’m talking about. For those of you that had the opportunity to play Mirror’s Edge on console release, I would say it is similar in nature because it focuses on park our, but in a very stylized way. For those of you who can make this connection, and even for those of you who cannot, DustForce is reminiscent of 2D plat-formers which means that yes, it is like Super Mario Bros. and games of that kind, but has taken its own hold on the genre. As a quick side note, plat-formers have become one of the most elastic (creatively) genres in indie game development because at the game mechanics core you are simply jumping, albeit creative additions which DustForce definitely has. So what makes this game different? Why is it called DustForce? To put it in ways that makes it sound as cool as I believe it to be, you play as a “janitor” with ninja like athleticism, meaning wall jumping, wall running, and even a little bit of ceiling crawling. However, the caveat is that this game does not progress for those of you who do not have the skill, determination, and persistence to truly learn and master what makes the game as fluid as the game-play video shows it to be. In other terms, you unlock levels by getting a perfect score in the two categories of Completion and Finesse (the perfect score meaning S rank). In terms of actual game-play DustForce is very similar to N+ which is now on Xbox Live, but originally was a browser based game. Obtaining a perfect score though, is done by cleaning up everything in a level, as well as keeping up your combo meter throughout the entire level (which you lose when either hit by an enemy or by taking too long to get to the next spot to clean).

So much like other difficult plat-formers, the key is memorizing the level layout, mastering the controls, and never giving up just because you cannot beat it the thirtieth or fortieth try. The reward for a perfect completion is so high however; that it is well worth the effort, making you forget about your previous failures. This is not to say you won’t have fun just playing the level even with a bad score, because with the fluidity of the whole experience and the shortness of each individual level, it is never a hassle to hit the retry button at the end of each attempt. Each level is unique and fun in its own right and with four different locations (each with their own themes) there is a great variety that I personally never got tired of. Is the game difficult? Yes, but not due to the poor mechanics, because the controls are in fact very tight and responsive. This distinction is important between difficult games that are good or bad, when you die is it your fault or the games? In the former it is your fault and so I attribute DustForce to this category.

Beyond the game-play, DustForce is one of the only games I can say I was attentively listening to the music while I was playing. The art direction is, to me, very much like water color painting and so not having to focus on too many specific details the music just naturally takes over you during your experience. The character models (of which there are four playable in single player) are all very well made and have their own personal aesthetic attributes that give them some uniqueness. Each character does have some slight distinctions in how they control (mostly in their attacks) but none of them have any certain advantage over the others for any level. Multi-player does exist however it is local only, but since this is college it shouldn’t be too hard finding someone to play with right? The two modes are king of the hill and survival, which serve their purpose to play with your friends, but are not the main reasons you should be playing the game. I went into DustForce with no knowledge about it, besides the fact it was an indie 2D plat-former, and I have come out wholly satisfied. For only ten bucks disregard the difficulty and appreciate the game for what it is, a brilliant take on a very old game formula.