Monday, May 19, 2014

Games With Gold Impressions: Dust: An Elysian Tail (is so God Darn Pretty).

If you have an Xbox 360, Xbox Live Gold, and anything resembling a noggin' in your head, stop reading this and go download Dust: An Elysian Tail right now. For the next 11 days it's free, and it's worth every penny. 

Functionally, Dust is a hack-n-slash platformer with light RPG elements, telling a surprisingly well-acted story about a mythical sword, a nebulous mystery, and a group of heroes that are possibly trying to save the world.

And on paper that all seems nice, but we've all been here before, right? Metroid, Castlevania, and countless (and I do mean countless) games have come and gone that delivered an iteration of a formula without really transcending it. Of course they said that about 'Avatar' on paper, too. 

Like Avatar you need to experience  'Dust: An Elysian Tail' to 'get' it. What is there to get? Only the best 2D animation in the history of gaming. 


Yes, even better than Dragon Quest.

Considering I own a Xbox One, having a 360 game blow my mind visually was a surprising and welcome treat. Dust teems with colors, from sun-bleached meadows to dimly lit caves, to deer that run through the forest so majestically you think you're in a pre-rendered cut-scene.

But you're not. Instead you're playing a video-game that continuously looks like a hand-drawn animated film. Dust himself features over 500 unique frames of animation, and boy does it show. There's a fluidity to every single action you take. And seeing the breadth and scope of these animations suddenly changes how you approach the typical hack-n-slash. 

Namely, you'll pay attention to combos. While you can hammer the X button and slay many enemies, combining the X and Y and B buttons in rhythm to create elaborate melee / spell / projectile combinations generates such graceful (and exciting) onscreen actions you're compelled to keep playing it the 'right' way. It helps the whole system is solid, too - there are multiple ways to dispatch enemies, and weapons, abilities, and stats all upgrade as you proceed through the game. The multiple difficulty settings allow you to approach the game how you want, too - if you're just down for the story and the pretty sights, set it to easy and you're golden.


Anyway, I'm only a few hours into the title, and considering it's FREE, I can't think of a good reason why you shouldn't download this game right now and start salivating at the incredible artwork on display. There aren't any games this pretty, and scant few approach it. 

Check it out. 


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