If you tried to sell me on Dustforce by describing it to me, I’d probably think you were either insane or trying to trick me. I can just imagine it. “No, it’s a platformer, but you’re sweeping up leaves and dust, and you have to help some animals! It’s great!” When you pitch it like that, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense, even though it’s a pretty accurate description. So, what is it that makes this sweep-crazy runner so much fun, despite the dressings of housework as your main objective?
Let’s start with the basics. The art design and sound are spot-on; even my wife, a noted anti-minimalist, commented on how nice it looks despite the sparsity. It’s simple, but effective, clean, and lends itself well to the fast pace of the game, since a lot of the time you’re going by in kind of a blur anyway. The supporting soundtrack is great; a mix of downtempo electronic and classic “chip-tune” sounds that really blends well with the action and draws you in. Every piece of the design comes together nicely, and creates a unified, consistent experience that’s as unique as it is entertaining, which can be a rare enough feat in the world of AAA gaming, much less independently-developed titles such as Dustforce.
So, what about the gameplay, then? Can you really create a compelling, fun game out of parkour-happy janitors armed with tools of their trade? Surprisingly, yes, and Hitbox Team has done a marvelous job of it. Dustforce is a frantic, quick-reaction run-and-jump platform that’s simple enough in theory, but with portions challenging enough to test the mettle of seasoned gamers as well. The world is pretty open, so there’s lots to take in, and you can jump straight into some pretty difficult levels without so much as a glimpse of the easier ones if you’re so inclined; I’ve tried my luck at a few of those, but soon wound up back in the more basic areas to work on my style a bit and try to perfect the art of the tricky, high-speed wall and ceiling jumps that make up so much of the game’s more challenging parts.
It should be pretty obvious by now that I was handily impressed by Dustforce; more than I expected to be, really. The faceless janitors-turned-hero still manage to have some personality just by their animations, and the play changes up a bit depending on which you choose — my go-to is Dustkid, the purple-clad twin-featherduster, who’s got a bit more acrobatics in exchange for shorter strike distance than her fellows. I happened to play Dustforce on the PS3; it’s available for Vita, Xbox 360, and Steam, running a middling $9.99 on each platform. With the numerous existing stages, as well as multiplayer and custom map creation, you easily get your money’s worth from this charming, sleek platformer, and I’d heartily recommend it for anyone who’s looking for something a little bit different and easy to pick up for some time-killing fun alone or with friends online.
[+Great sound and graphics design] [+Solid, easy to pick up gameplay] [+Good range of difficulties for all skill levels] [-Controls are finicky at times]