Dust: An Elysian Tail is a unique and interesting prospect. The first thing you’ll notice is its cartoon-inspired, “family-friendly” aesthetic. The bright colour palette is instantly reminiscent of something you’d expect to see in a Disney movie. But don’t be fooled, it’s no kids game. Belying its naive visual style is a pretty serious title that for the most part can be described as a mixture between something along the lines of Devil May Cry, coupled with light RPG elements that push it vaguely in the direction of Castelvania.
Having said that, it’s not a game content to simply retread paths worn by previous games, and it somehow pulls these familiar gameplay components together in a way that is mysteriously unique. Players will spend their time navigating and exploring the 2D world and fighting baddies in a manner that is gloriously arcade-y and fluid, and the RPG elements build in a sense of depth and progression, which gives the game its lasting appeal.
Players will chain together impressive combo attacks that result in some glorious swordplay and visual effects. Your hero, Dust, will blaze through hoards of foes fluidly and seamlessly with his blade, chaining together different attacks and channelling magical affects as he slices and dices. The end result is something quite visually spectacular, and these encounters often end with a screen heaped full of loot that he can collect and equip, which totally gives you that same cheeky satisfied feeling you get just after clearing a room in Diablo III.
One of Dust’s greatest strengths is its seamless execution. While it looks totally gorgeous and is laden with awesome visual effects, they never detract from you being able to see what’s going on. The controls are also great, and although the gameplay is complex enough to keep things interesting, things never get over-complicated. You are discouraged from button mashing by the nature of the combat system, but at the same time, the number of combos never feels overwhelming. If anything, I might have enjoyed a little more complexity in this area, but that would be nitpicking.
One of my only real disappointments when playing through Dust was the boss battles, which are laughably easy. In fact, most boss encounters were over in under a minute, and at the end of the first few, I actually stood around expecting more, but it never came. Of course, there is the option to increase the difficulty, but bear in mind that you can’t change it again once you have started a campaign.
The star of the show in Dust is without a doubt its unique, and simply gorgeous aesthetic. The art direction is magnificent, and the effects and general visual execution that accompany it are pretty much flawless. The fact that the game is such a visual splendour enhances the gameplay, and makes hacking and slashing your way through countless enemies that much more satisfying. Having said that, the gameplay holds its own well enough. The general execution is slick and seamless, and the game design is sharp, resulting in an experience that is altogether quite moreish.
Dust: An Elysian Tail combines classic side-scrolling action-adventure gameplay, with solid RPG mechanics, wrapped up in a vibrant and unique visual style, solid animation, some beautiful music, and decent voice acting. The gameplay starts off pretty basic but gradually builds into a more complex and deep experience that gives the game a comfortable learning curve that ensures the player remains captivated.