Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust: An Elysian Tail is a 2D action-RPG game from developer Humble Hearts.  You play as Dust and set out on a  journey to liberate an oppressed village and rediscover your past.  At your disposal is a mystical talking sword known as Ahrah.  The blade gives it’s user mythical powers that turns them into an almost unstoppable force.  The blade also provides the user with help from it’s mystical guardian, Fidget.  This game is really easy to get into and is just a great throwback to classic adventure games, often reminding me of NES games like Kid Icarus, The Legend Of Zelda, and even Metroid.

Dust has just awaken from a deep slumber but has no idea who he is.

The game is set up as a side scrolling adventure and often requires you to do some back tracking, but the levels are designed so well that it is virtually impossible to get lost.  In fact, they are so much fun that I found myself not caring at all when I had to back track to a certain location.  Exiting one screen and then returning to said previous screen will respawn any enemies you may have encountered but that didn’t matter to me because the combat system in Dust is so fantastic and such a joy to use that re-fighting the same set of baddies was anything but a chore.  The combat is simple enough in that all of the blade attacks are mapped to one button, but that’s not to say that they are all the same.  They vary depending on how many times you tap the button and you can even mix in an aerial attack or summons an attack from you traveling partner, Fidget.  No matter what attack combo you use the result is usually the same, a smile on your face, an assault on your senses, and a feeling of total satisfaction.

Here's Dust in combat. Let the whuppings begin.

The story is pretty simple but this game is more about having fun than it is telling you an Oscar worthy story.  It’s not a bad story, but it’s seems more of a means to deliver fun gameplay over anything else.  The characters do a good job of distinguishing themselves from each other and the writing has a lot of humor in it and doesn’t take itself to seriously.  I found your companion, Fidget, to be quite funny at times and even delivered a few genuine laugh out loud moments.  At one point early on in the game your blade, Ahrah, is reminding you to remember your training as you are about to head into your first big battle.  But it is Fidget who chimes in with a “OR, MASH YOUR BUTTONS!” comment.  There’s little moments like these peppered throughout the game that help keeps things fresh and fun.

These guys don't stand a chance.

For you RPG fans out there the game offers some elements that you will enjoy as Dust has a light RPG feel to it.  Your characters, weapons, and skills can all be leveled up by just simply playing the game.  In talking to some of the characters you run into on your journey you can pick up side quests that will often lead to you doing some crafting using materials you have found or bought along the way.  Some of these side quests will also have you exploring the map even further so you can loot hidden treasure chests or search for other mystical items in one of the many shops that can be found on the map.  Speaking of things to find, there are a few hidden battle arenas to find and any score you end with will be posted to a Leaderboard so you can see how you fair in combat against your friends or other Dust players.

The bad guys come in many shapes and sizes. Here's one of the bigger Monsters you'll come across in the game.

Perhaps the biggest and best feature of this game is it’s graphics.  They are a marvel to look at and are hand painted and animated.  They are a treat for the eyes and well worth the price of admission.  The art team for Dust needs to take a bow and they have set the bar high for what an Arcade game should look like.  I hope that other game artists and developers take note of this as I’d love to see more games take this approach to graphics.  I can’t say it enough, bravo on a job well done.

The artwork in Dust is absolutely gorgeous.

All in all, Dust: An Elysian Tail is a fantastic game that delivers fast and furious combat, provides some light RPG elements, will give gamers a fun and old school gameplay mechanic, and offer you some humorous moments.  If that wasn’t enough, it is an absolute drop dead gorgeous game to view.  What a treat this game is.

Game Details:

Developer: Humble Hearts
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Reviewed Platform: Xbox 360
Singleplayer 9
Multiplayer N/A
Replayability 7
Graphics 9
Audio 9
Overall 9