Dyad is an explosion of light, color, and joy, and when you discover and embrace its unique rhythms, it's hard to escape its tendrils. If you were to watch someone playing Dyad, you probably wouldn't understand what was happening. In fact, there are times when you play that you won't feel in full control over the vibrant action--but you'll probably feel satisfied anyway. This downloadable game's psychedelic presentation is a big part of its success, but don't dismiss Dyad as a shallow visualizer; its various mechanics give rise to a great deal of diversity, each stage settling into a rhythm all its own.
You could compare some elements of Dyad to Tempest, A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, and Rez, but Dyad doesn't really feel like any of those games. As an abstract mass of neon tentacles, you travel down a tube bursting with psychedelic color and music. In each consecutive level, the game introduces you to new mechanics. At first, you propel yourself forward by linking geometric enemies of the same color into pairs. Then, you learn how you to build energy by grazing the edges of enemies that you target. That energy can be released by lancing--that is, dashing forward at breakneck speeds and tearing through enemies on the way. Eventually, you encounter enemies that produce speed-enhancing pathways, invulnerability power-ups, and other twists.
You should heed Dyad's seizure warning: there is a lot of visual feedback, and a few too many times, the game's challenge comes from how it obscures the screen with so much speed and color that you can't always tell what's going on. But usually, Dyad plays fair. During the main levels, you get into a groove in which your eyes and fingers become one. Once you become accustomed to the unusual rules, you can turn off conscious thought and let your senses take over. At this point, it's easier to enjoy how the increasing speed, vibrant sights, electronic soundtrack, and poignant sound effects lull you into a rhythm.
If the music had been too frenetic, Dyad might have been too much to handle, but the soundtrack is a subtle counterpart to the swirling graphics. Sound effects and synthesized strains combine in intelligent and delightful ways, sometimes soothing your mind, and other times stimulating it. Brief and evocative tones immediately communicate your successes and failures, mixing with the soundtrack to create an evolving tapestry of arpeggios and chords. When you accelerate, the music crescendos and the harmonies grow more dissonant; when the pace slows, the audio relaxes and peaceful blends emerge.
Dyad's main campaign ends with a wonderful stage that removes all challenge and lets your senses fully take over. It's a pleasant conclusion to an entertaining and clever game. But if you came looking to show off some skill, you'll enjoy the Trophy version of each level. To unlock the Trophy stage, you must earn three stars on the standard stage. To complete the new stage, and earn the accompanying trophy, you perform very specific, sometimes incredibly difficult tasks. You must heed the time limit, come to a complete stop, or graze a certain number of enemies, in addition to meeting other criteria. The trophy stages can take a good bit of time and exertion to complete, and each one requires you to reset your brain and learn the rhythm of the challenge. Failing at the 99% mark after 15 previous unsuccessful attempts might break your heart. But once you leap that hurdle, you're overcome with elation.
There are a few times when Dyad's abstract presentation is so overwhelming that you don't feel in control of your own destiny. But by and large, this unique game keeps you invested. Each stage lulls you into a pleasant rhythm, but Dyad changes the pace so frequently that you can never be complacent. It's a great mix of comfort and excitement, making it easy to lose yourself in the barrage of sound and energy.