Dustforce Review

A tricky and technical 2D platformer, Dustforce delights the senses with its harmonious score and sweeping sense of momentum.

by

Dust and grime surround us. Every day, they collect atop coffee tables and in forgotten kitchen corners, but no more. In Dustforce, it's time to fight back. Filth falls before four acrobatic janitors--each equal parts ninja and handyman. Their world is built on speed and has you building momentum while sweeping away patches of leaves and battling waste-covered foes. It's up to you to determine how these chores piece together to earn the best score, and when you do, it's immensely satisfying.

There is a unique economy of movement in Dustforce that must be mastered to succeed. Running and jumping are simple. It's when you start zipping around in midair that things get tricky. For instance, most characters can either double jump or dash while in the air. That is, unless you defeat an enemy while airborne. Then you can either dash again or make a third jump. And once you touch the ground, the whole system resets. If this sounds confusing, don't worry; the game eases you into this system through a comprehensive tutorial stage and several basic early stages.

At the end of each stage, you're graded on completion, finesse (a blanket term that factors in your combo meter, whether you defeated all enemies and the like), and speed. If you perform well enough, you earn keys that unlock doors leading to more challenging stages. Each stage also has two unique leaderboards: one for overall score and another for time. However, the best feature is the replay support for each entry on the leaderboards. These can offer insight into surmounting the tougher stages. They also offer plenty of "That doesn't look so hard" moments and feed into the game's already addictive nature.

Compared to other 2D platformers, such as the masterful Super Meat Boy, Dustforce feels slower and heavier. This weight stems from the extra layers of complexity afforded by the game's movement and combat. For combat, each character has a light and heavy attack. By chaining light attacks together you can propel your character through the air while striking an enemy. Hitting a foe with a single, heavy attack is faster; however, this leaves behind a patch of filth for you to clean up. Everything--from cleaning to combat--feeds into your combo meter. Once full, this meter can be used to unleash a screen-clearing attack. Using these elements together makes the stages feel like puzzles. You're constantly experimenting with different combinations of dashing, attacking, and jumping to find the fastest route.

A level editor is advertised as 'coming soon' in the game.

Dustforce is supported by outstanding audio and visual design. The music feels especially fitting: a calming, trancelike soundtrack that is akin to inMomentum and Mirror's Edge. The music has the added psychological effect of calming you down when you hit attempt 50 on the same level, and its subtle nature prevents it from becoming grating after listening to it for long stretches. The visuals are just as rich. Each of the game's four settings has its own style and is rendered using a soft, pastel color palette that complements the soothing tone set by the score.

This harmony is interrupted by a lack of explanation of some basic features. The two most striking examples of this have to do with the differences among the four playable characters and the game's multiplayer. Of the four playable characters, the blue character with the broom appears to be the most well-rounded one, while the purple character with the feather dusters is quicker but can't jump as high. This lack of information only serves as a detriment to the game and adds unnecessary confusion.

The multiplayer mode is even more baffling. This local-only mode supports up to four players in a king-of-the-hill type of match. This is not explained, and when you first load it up, chances are you won't know what to do. Thus far, the game has taught you to clean up everything in sight as quickly as you can. In this mode, some players play as the four cleaners, while the others play as their messy counterparts: spreading dust, leaves, and the like across the map. Therefore, your first instinct is to clean and fight until one side dominates the screen (which is almost impossible). Gradually, it becomes obvious that cleaning and fighting are not the focus of this multiplayer mode--and unless you have a keen eye, chances are you won't know what to do next.

Being able to disable checkpoints is a welcome feature when aiming for the fastest time.

There are a handful of other, smaller issues that drag Dustforce down from greatness. On one computer, the game performed without issue, while on another similar setup, it suffered major performance dips when traversing the overworld and would infrequently crash on specific stages. There is also a mysterious video tab in the options menu that has been left completely blank. Being able to perform the basic functions of resizing the game or playing in a window would be a welcome addition. While these issues do reveal some rough edges, the game proper is left largely unaffected. Sliding through the world of Dustforce is a fun, free-flowing experience, and it's easy to get hooked on it.

The Good
Challenging platforming for all skill levels
Entrancing soundtrack
Tons of stages to unlock
Leaderboards let you watch others' replays.
The Bad
Some features lack basic explanation
A few performance issues.
7
Good
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About the Author

/ Staff

Maxwell prides himself on cleanliness, especially when it comes to his golden locks. Thankfully, it doesn't take a team of ninja hairdressers to keep his mane clean.

Discussion

28 comments
jrich3600
jrich3600

I would add that you should download the demo version of any game you want to buy and play it if your not sure about the purchase. If you like the demo version of the game, then you will probably like the game. Do your research and there will be few surprises. From further playing dustforce, the beginner levels are now fairly easy and I could see anyone clearing them with some practice, these are all open at the start. The silver levels are the next you will unlock from the beginner levels. Silver levels are more tricky and hard but most would complete all of these within a few days with practice and persistence. The gold levels, well that's when the difficult goes into outer space. Most of the gold levels are insanely difficult, and lend themselves to a very high learning curve. I will that the gold levels are most where you will find the controls failing you as the precision required is ridiculously hard and challenging. Some of the gold levels I will say I died dozens of times without even making it past maybe 1 or 2% of the level. So making it the whole 100% well that may never happen. I think super meat boy fans will dig it as that game looks hard as hell as well.

jrich3600
jrich3600

I haven't played super meat boy but have watched videos of it and it seems as hard as dustforce so I will not likely get that one. I think the problem is I like adventure platformers, with some difficulty such as mickey mouse in the land of illusion of example. This is not an adventure game really but is a test of your skills to do complex manuvers. The levels are well done though. It definitely will be entertaining for some people. The leaderboard is really a huge plus for dustforce.

Twin-Blade
Twin-Blade

@jrich3600 It sounds like the game is not for you. If you're into speed runs, this game is incredible. Out of interest, have you played Super Meat Boy? If so, what did you think of it?

jrich3600
jrich3600

If you buy it, wait for a steam sale, it's not worth the 8.99 I paid on steam. Game is to difficult, and the controls are mediocre. Basically a game where the level design is to have you play a level 100+ or 1000+ times to complete it. The game is not fun it is frustrating and ultimately not worth the time to play as there is no satisfaction in the end, even if you manage to complete a level after a few hundred tries.

hyperscooby
hyperscooby

I just love the music on this. I want the soundtrack.

Blue-Sky
Blue-Sky

Probably get it whenever steam has it on sale

julianboxe
julianboxe

Love the soundtrack, Perfect house beat to listen in the car while traveling.

kiranbvsn
kiranbvsn

you will get bored soon if we play long enough with these game play.............

KaranDesai
KaranDesai

its pretty appealing. love the music and looks a genuine concept!

c_rakestraw
c_rakestraw moderator moderator

@Gelugon_baat -- Oh? Certainly sounded that way... Well, whatever.

MichaeltheCM
MichaeltheCM

i like the gameplay music and it looks fun overall :)

radtudor
radtudor

Looks fun, but then again it's so easy to innovate in a platformer in comparison to many other genres. Glad to see Gamespot stopped freely throwing 9s to slightly innovative platformers.

Kickable
Kickable

good, hard games are pretty much extinct other than this and Super Meat Boy

scout7
scout7

The videos are lies, this game is so frustrating. You need to be perfect in every level to unlock keys to open harder levels. The timing is so precise and you can almost never slow down. It's essentially Super Meat Boy meets Bit Trip Runner :( . But I can't stop playing because I love platformers.

Relikvata
Relikvata

I find action-platformers irresistable :D. Capsized and Trine - were great. This one is a nice edition to the collection. I am not good enough for Super Meat Boy, but this looks cool. And the concept is quite fresh. Additionally, it has the word "force" in the name - and everything with it seems to be awesome like G-force e.g :D

c_rakestraw
c_rakestraw moderator moderator

@Gelugon_baat -- And that's a bad thing? How?

wavelength121
wavelength121

This looks appealing, I hated Super Meat Boy's unforgiving difficulty and childish presentation, booted back to the beginning of the level for one slip-up, really? This looks like a relaxing change. Also try Capsized for a fun challenge

tandukbadak
tandukbadak

Gameplay similar to Super Meat Boy, with a twist. Whoever love Super Meat Bot should play this game. In terms of cleaning dust, still can't beat Street Cleaning Simulator.

Crazyguy105
Crazyguy105

Will definitely get this. Liked Super Meat Boy and loved VVVVVV.

Toorima
Toorima

The aerial moves have a lot in common with Project Stormos, pretty cool =)

manicwagon
manicwagon

can't help but notice the correlation between the lack of video reviews and the release dates of Star Wars and Skyrim. Sure it's been a slow month or so, but...

Jaxith
Jaxith

@JMcN76 @megakick What? No...! No, that would be silly. It's a game about a ninja janitorial squad! ...That just happens to do alot of dusting... Personally, I saw this on steam the other day and it looked like a pretty neat game. I'm not surprised it scored well.

megakick
megakick

A game about dusting? Really? It scored higher then AMY!

JMcN76
JMcN76

A game about dusting? Really?

guiplc
guiplc

the soundtrack is amazing

Dustforce More Info

First Release on Jan 17, 2012
  • Macintosh
  • PC
  • + 4 more
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Unix/Linux
  • Xbox 360
In Dustforce you play as an acrobatic janitor who must deal with dust and disorder.
7.5
Average User RatingOut of 53 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Hitbox
Published by:
Hitbox , Capcom
Genres:
Platformer, 2D, Action
Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
Everyone 10+
All Platforms