Review: Dustforce

Dustforce is a new downloadable platformer, from Hitbox Team, that was swept onto your Steam platform on January 17th.  The game challenges you to make the levels spotless and continue your combo until the end, competing for scores and times on the online leaderboards.  Last’s year’s demo certainly created a lot of buzz, but will the full game clean up, or just get left on the shelf to collect dust?


There is very little, if any, story to Dustforce.  The game allows you to choose between 4 characters- Dustman, Dustgirl, Dustkid and Dustworth.  The forum members notice subtle differences between Dustman and Dustgirl, but the difference seemed negligible to me.  Dustkid has a shorter jump,but the ability to triple jump makes up for it.  The older, wiser and vacuum wielding Dustworth(I like to call him Jeff) moves a bit slower, but his vacuum has a longer attack range and higher jump(thanks to the Steam community for clarification here).  The game trades menus for a larger level that you can navigate to pick your level to play through, in one of four arenas – City Streets, Forrest, Mansion and Laboratory.  Reaching all the doors can take a little finesse, and only 16 of the more than 50 levels are unlocked at the onset.  Playing through a level has you sweeping away leaves, dust, sludge or litter using acrobatics to keep your combo throughout the level-take too long to navigate from one dustpile to the next and the combo drops.  Earning a perfect rating on a level grants you a key that can be used to unlock any silver door in the main screen.  Complicated double jumps and wall running make this a tough 2D parkour game, with only about 5 seconds of a buffer to keep that combo flowing.  The game will grade your performance on Finesse(how many times your combo dropped) and Completion (clearing every last speck of dust).  Along the way you will fight monsters with light and heavy attacks, allowing  you to juggle in the air and add an extra jump after striking.  There are leaderboards, replays of your own after each level that you can view, as well as the option to view the replays of the top players on the leaderboards, so that you can see and adopt their strategies.  The soundtrack is fantastic, it’s a mix of relaxing, whimsical synthesizer music that brings an air of side-scrolling nostalgia to the game.

The Verdict

I have to preface this with the fact that I do love the art style, the visuals and the soundtrack-but the game is just not for me.  I found the so-called beginner levels to be far beyond me, let alone the couple Silver levels that I was able to unlock.  The game requires absolute perfection in both combo and clearance, so drop your combo once and you will not earn a key for that level.  Normal levels yield silver keys and silver levels yield gold keys, and my janitor’s keychain features a paltry 2 silver keys.  Being able to view the replays that won is an awesome option, I love it…and yet it makes me feel like I am having to watch a tutorial that I must flawlessly mimic to progress through the game.  I’ve had some real difficulty with the controls, I’ve tried the default mouse & keyboard setup and then remapped it.  Then I tried two different gamepads, and no matter what I do I cannot seem to get my characters to flow the way I want them to.  Wall clinging doesn’t always work the way I want, wall jumping can be sporadic and unexpected and I always seem to fudge a move and drop a combo, forfeiting the level due to those control issues.  There is a lot of clever gameplay packed into Dustforce, but for those that don’t mind the repetition.  I can see why other reviewers have been praising it, I just not a fan of the slow progression and rough controls.  I can only play for 10-20 minutes before I feel like I’ll be getting my janitorial pink slip, then I move on to something else.  The posted video will show some of my fumblings, and will showcase the better features of the game, could I master it’s controls(click the link below for the video).  If you are a completionist or a 2D platformer fan, Dustforce might be right up your alley, but if mastering levels to progress is not an attractive venture, you might want to check out the demo first.


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