When gaming companies set out to create games most of the time the games are made with a passion for their idea and the game companies will spare no expense to guarantee that millions of other gamers get to enjoy it as well. Sometimes you get games that are predeceased by stratospheric levels of publicity that turn into rock bottom levels of disappointments. Sometimes you get games that are, from start to finish, flat out terrible. Sometimes you will have game companies that spend hundreds of millions on development across multiple teams in multiple cities around the globe, and the game tanks. Then, like the Marines, there are the few that provide a truly breathtaking experience from start to finish. I'll let you wager a guess as to which category Dust: An Elysian Tail fits into. When we talk about Dust however, we're not talking about a billion dollar global corporation that just shovels money by the ton into creating public spectacles that can be seen from space. When we talk about Dust, we're talking about one man, Mr. Dean Dodrill, the sole designer of Dust. It's it without a doubt one of the most challenging experiences any one person can manage to tackle alone, but Mr. Dodrill somehow managed to provide gamers with a truly magical adventure filled with RPG elements, a lengthy story, tons of side quests, platforming traits, intense combat and a whole lot more.
From the very beginning Dust opens itself up to you in a visually orgasmic experience. Without question this game is beyond beautiful and what a fantastic way to start your extensive side scrolling 2D journey. You assume the role of a character, aptly named Dust, who awakens to find he is the possessor of an ancient sword called Ahrah, and it is up to Dust to solve the prophecy of the sword and uncover the secrets of his past to solve the problems of the present and preserve the future. While the scripting at times can become a bit dark, the overall writing for the game is absolutely brilliant and sets the stage for one of the most enjoyable experiences you will find on the Xbox Live Arcade. While the tone of the plot may be darker at times, right from the beginning you are greeted by your brand new companion called, Fidget who acts as a source of humor (sometimes bad humor) throughout the game. This really helps enhance not only the story but the overall experience as well.
As we stated earlier this game is a 2D side scrolling adventure game and the gameplay mechanics of Dust are incredibly smooth and the ease of use makes Dust a game that you can quite easily pick up and play. You have your basic light and heavy attacks but you will also gain a Dust Storm attack where you can not only rack up insanely high combos, but you can also call upon Fidget and have this flying fox/bat thing launch 3 projectiles which turn into dozens more that will seek and attack enemies on the screen. There will be abilities you earn and learn along the way which will require you to backtrack to previous areas if you're the type of gamer that has to explore every area and obtain every treasure. The wonderful thing though is that even when you backtrack, you're still passing through untold of beauty with the environments so you don't really mind doing it.
One of Dust's major accomplishments is the integration of RPG elements throughout the game. You will find materials which can be sold to stores so they can stock them for you in the future, so a small investment now can pay off big down the road. Throughout your adventure you'll also come across blueprints for artifacts and armor that, with the right materials, you can craft and either equip or sell the items themselves. When you also take into account the heavy amount of side quests and all the items you will acquire from chests and boss fights, you will quickly realize that you will never be short for loot of any kind.
Already you've been reading praises of the beauty of Dust, and to be honest, calling it beautiful is like saying the Mona Lisa looks ok. If you have ever wondered what an animated Disney movie would look like with strong references from the time period of feudal Japan and science fiction, then Dust would be the outcome. The backgrounds of every area look like a vibrant, stunning painting and the areas themselves look like interactive masterpieces of art. Even the in game weather effects add to the ambiance of every level and add a great graphical balance to Dust. The character models are done spectacularly well and all of this remembers is thanks to one person. One nice surprise is the quality of the dialogue between characters. The retro style cut scene conversations resurrect a golden era of gaming and proves that you don't need hundreds of millions of dollars and a global workforce to get things right.
Dust is without question one of the best Xbox Live Arcade games to ever release. You could easily put this up against Trials, or even the current king of the arcade, Minecraft and Dust will go the distance due to its quality and overall brilliance. This is a perfect example of when passion and desire mix and produce something that the global gaming community will forever be thankful for. If for some reason you decide not to pick up Dust, I actually feel sorry for you b/c you're shorting yourself from one truly amazing experience. 1200 MS points for Dust is a lot for an arcade game (though $15 doesn't go that far now), but it's worth every point. Take a bow Mr. Dodrill, for you have truly created a gaming masterpiece.