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Ben Hornsby Ben Hornsby
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Dust': an Elysian tail

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(Because the main character has a tail, see?)

'Dust' is a fluid little action game with a bunch of RPG nonsense hanging off of it and an aesthetic that is mostly almost-embarrassing. The characters are cartoonified anthropomorphic animals of a vague fanart-quality that I'm not really qualified to judge - though I can't imagine anyone is going to see the villain's stupid talking head portrait and not mash A to get it to go away - and every time one of them starts babbling you'll be glad that you're all alone. At least the characters are characters, I guess. And once you get past them the game doesn't look too offensive, as long as it keeps moving.

Moving! Yes. You can walk around and jump and slice stuff. Slicing is kind of nice. You can keep attacking in the air, and every time you do you kind of hang there for a second. You know what I mean. Pressing the Y button makes Dust freak out and start spinning his sword like his arm is a machine that spins things very well, and if you do it in the air you start cycloning forward. This is the 'Ocarina of Time' roll of 'Dust' - it's more fun than walking and after a few hours you've convinced yourself that it might not be slower. It's probably more fun that running, too, though I can't be sure since you can't run in this game.

'Dust' is quite concerned with hiding passages and treasure chests all over the place, though since many of the hidden passages offer the consumable keys which are required to open the hidden treasure chests, you just have to hope you don't find too many chests in a row. If you do, and if you're That Kind of Guy, then you'll have to add a space in the back of your brain for the treasure chests you need to return to along with the list of hookshot targets and bombable boulders (metaphor) you're already keeping track of. I don't know why so many games need to be designed for lunatics, but hey, here we are.

The combat is skewed towards checkbox-checking, too, though less obviously. While I didn't spend much time tweaking numbers, I was still pretty much invincible after finishing a handful of cardboard sidequests, even with the difficulty all the way up. And hey, I'm not quite a savant. The enemies are either wet paper to your bullet or insurmountable instant-kill machines - which are turned into paper by a counter-attack anyway.

The world is set up like 'Metroid's,' except instead of dozens of rooms coiled up in a knot it's just 10 rooms set in four fat branches, with each room being as long as and slightly less clever than the second level of 'Super Mario World,' and there's no way for you to see the entire map at once. There are locked-door checkpoints all over, whether they're tiny gaps you can't slide through yet or air currents you can't ride yet or literal color-coded locked doors.

The sliding and air-jumping have no function outside of accessing these little paths. Why aren't there just a few more key colors? Because some people are jerks, and other people are bigger jerks. So here you are, playing for four hours to unlock the ability to do a Mega Man X slide. These little knee-high passages keep popping up, and you just keep waiting and waiting, until finally the giant sparking orb appears out of nowhere and you 'unlock' the 'ability' to move forward while you crouch. Yes, you could totally already crouch. My mystically-trained ninja-assassin - who can fly sometimes! - can't just crawl forward a few feet? He's a fox, for God's sake.

one star out of four

Ben Hornsby would be playing 'Sleeping Dogs' right now if it was available at his local Redbox.


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