Dust: An Elysian Tail

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9.8 Overall Score

Gorgeous Graphical Style | Huge World to Explore | Major Fun Factor

Not Enough TIme in the Day to Play

Written by on August 13, 2012 in [, , , , ]

Developer Humble Hearts began as a company of one.  Dean Dodrill began developing this game for an indie market release.  Along the way he entered and won Microsoft’s “Dream.Build.Play” competition in 2009.  With this honor his game also won a release on Xbox Live Arcade.  The culmination of all this prologue will be the game’s “Summer of Arcade” release on August 15th.  This is a side-scrolling action JRPG platformer at heart.  As most who know me or have read my previous review of Deadlight can attest, the “P” word typically sends shivers through me. This particular subgenre has the potential to dilute the platforming aspects into a challenging means to progress between locations.  Yes, these aspects can challenge, even frustrate.  The saving graces come in the form of features like more frequent opportunities to save, health boosts, and second chance opportunities.  These features help alleviate the rage I feel from a pure platformer.

The characters in the game look like anime and Looney Tunes had illegitimate children.  The result is a clan of super anthropomorphic cuteness set in colorfully cheery hand-painted world.  This world shares the genre’s love of the colors aqua, pink and peach.  The warm-blooded bunny and bear folk that inhabit the land seem to have an idyllic life until the arrival of hordes of monsters seem to be crawling out of the earth to wreak havoc.

This is the perfect time for the entrance of “Dust”.  This quintessential JRPG hero begins the game blessed with amnesia of his past life.  He is not allowed to wallow in the darkness for long, however.  In another typical JRPG move the hero finds an ornate oversized magical sword.  More accurately the sword finds him.  In an added bit of magic, the sword can speak.  The Blade of Ahrah has a destiny and needs Dust’s help.  This weapon/mentor also has its very own guardian.  The guardian is a pint-sized flying cat creature (Nimbat) is named Fidget.  In typical fashion this wise-cracking sidekick provides the comic relief of the piece.  Fidget also aids the hero in his quest.  On his/her own their power is pretty meager, but add the hero’s blade skills and the combo is lethal.  His/her abilities expand as the player defeats some of the bosses in the game.  The Nimbat is able to learn and reuse some of the enemies’ tactics.

The trio quickly set off to their destiny of stopping a racist warlord by the name of General Gaius.  The General and his armies have devastated the land in an attempt to wipe out all of the subterranean-dwelling Moon-bloods and their sympathizers.  Dust hopes to follow this destiny and hoping that this will lead to finding out who he was and who he will become.

Another time honored JRPG tradition is the high-flying acrobatic twirling combat style.  This game does not disappoint there.  I was twisting and twirling all over the screen.  I love using every square inch of my television screen to spread the carnage in beauty and grace.  All of these shenanigans combine with old school score multipliers to create a grand old time.

There are several gameplay features that help make the game user friendly to a wide range of player abilities.  The first feature allows the player to play the game using one of three possible difficulty levels.  Always a nice way to alleviating some fear lesser skilled or forgetful players have with more complex areas.

Another feature is the almighty save point.  Yes this game has the traditional save points but they have added a few nice tweaks to allow a bit more flexibility.  When the player passes over a save point shaped like a gazebo the game will autosave.  An option pops up to save in one of the manual save spots.  There are ten manual save games that allow a player to save the game at different levels to aid in re tracing steps and trying different actions if they did not like the way things turned out the first time.  The save points also allow the player the option to teleport the player one way to another land.  If the player previously purchased a blue crystal from a merchant that they can choose this option.  All of this creates a simple way to transport one’s self to another spot to complete a quest.

There are several other features that allow second chance opportunities. At the end of certain harder areas there are teleporter globes that transport the player back to a previous spot in the area.  There are also several shortcuts that a player may take to loop back around to an earlier area.  All of these features are ways to help ease the hardship of transporting their character to where they need to be.

A slightly different globe is scattered throughout the world to bestow different abilities on the player’s character.  After finding one the player will suddenly be able to “slide” or use an “iron grip” to climb.

Health boosts are always a great concern in RPG games and this game has no auto-regeneration of the health bar.  I was a bit concerned about this at first but I enjoyed the developer’s changes.  The player has a quick slot that allows them to use a health/healing boost item at the click of the left bumper button.  If the player runs out of a particular health item mid battle then they must open the menu and select a new item to fill the slot.  This can be a bit awkward but the battle does stop and wait for the player to finish making any menu changes.  The thing that makes it even easier is later on in the game when the player loots or buys gear that has a regeneration stat on it.  These items can be equipped to provide a minimal amount of regeneration to the player’s health.  The really nice feature is that this regeneration stat stack with any other regen stats found on other gear.  Combined together the player’s gear can provide a decent amount of auto-regen to their health.

Another feature that most players love in any game is treasure hunting.  This game provides several opportunities.  Treasure chests can be open with a key purchased off a merchant or looted elsewhere.  Once opened the player must input a sequence of buttons before time runs out and they will be rewarded by a bundle of loot.  Crates can be found throughout the world.  These crates have more locks and hold “friends” (i.e. Super Meat Boy) of Dust.  They can be opened to release his friends who then run off to the “Sanctuary”.  Dust can stop in and revisit his buddies in this dilapidated mansion set in the desolate tundra throughout the game.

Another random area type that can be found throughout the world are the arenas.  These are special challenge areas marked with flag at their entrance.  They offer the chance to gain glory and great treasure with the added bonus of torturing your friends to beat you on the leaderboards.

For those afraid of relying on loot for the gear, fear not.  The game presents opportunities to buy gear and boosts from Merchants.  These Marvin the Martian inspired mystery men in robes offer a wide range of wares.  The player can help add to the stock.  Each time the player sells a new unique material to the merchant they will catalogue that item and then keep that item in stock.  They restock often.  This makes it very handy for purchasing materials used in crafting items through the blacksmith.

Blacksmith is found by completing one of the side quests.  Patterns can be looted and then used with the right materials.  Materials are looted or purchased through merchants or the blacksmith.  The system is extremely easy but is made even easier by the second part of the side quest.  Here the smith asks you to find a transmitter they lost.  With this handy little item the player does not even have to go to the smith to get things crafted.  The “transmitter” allows the player to smith things via remote.

There are plenty of other collectible items that ease the player’s journey through the world.  Throughout the player’s travels they will find different colored gems that open gem gates of that same color. Like an ancient card key.

This is an arcade game that will fill many hours with good old fashioned action and adventure.  The world is huge.  To give you a good yardstick, I have been playing for over thirteen hours and I have explored roughly sixty percent of the lands.  This is before back tracking to loot treasure areas previously restricted to my hero.  Levels and areas are made re-playable through questing and areas that can only be accessed once the hero gains certain skills (like sliding or climbing).  This makes the extremely large world even more abundant with gaming goodness.

This game brings out the fun factor in gaming in vibrant technicolor.  I truly loved exploring this world.  The battle system is as fun as it is gorgeous to watch.  The characters are portrayed very well and the voice acting is very good.  In short, there is no reason not to buy this beautiful and sweet Elysian Tail.

A copy of Dust:  An Elysian Tail was provided to The Married Gamers for the purposes of this review.

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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

2 Comments on "Dust: An Elysian Tail"

  1. Rockslide August 14, 2012 at 7:51 am - Reply

    This is one of the most thorough reviews I’ve read, really nice.

  2. Melisa Snyder August 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the kind words sir 🙂

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