Dustforce has been out on the PC since 2012, but last week, it finally swept onto the Xbox Live Arcade scene, and I had to give it a go. I’d never played the “Sweep ’em up” before or, admittedly, heard of it, but seeing the Capcom label on an XBLA title again easily warranted the $9.99 price tag for me, and I feel that it was a good, safe gamble.
Reading other reviews; I’m seeing a lot of comparisons to the likes of Super Meat Boy and n+, and although it is similar, style-wise, it feels much more like its Capcom cousin, Strider. I’d hazard to guess that the developers are fans of both Strider, the Trials series and Super Meat Boy, and, most likely, perfectionists, who aren’t satisfied with merely reaching the end of a level, unless they’re absolutely sure they’ve seen everything that can be seen on it. This seems to be the major attraction to Dustforce, and if you’re an acheivement hunter, a perfectionist or a level completionist; this was built for you.
In Dustforce, you play the part of a humble, yet ninja-move-equipped, janitor with the aim of ridding the world of dust, which is on the walls, floors, and ceilings; turning NPCs and inanimate objects into monsters and Fantasia-like foes.
Your job is to clean, as quickly and perfectly as possible. You’ll be graded on how much of the level you’ve cleansed and by how smoothly you did it. The latter, known as your “finesse” rating will be the one that pushes you forward. Your momentum and fluency in the game are harshly penalized for bad form; which will add on precious seconds and making things just feel plain clunky. This removal from the ninja side of your janitor will grate on your every time you mess up, urging you to reset over and over again…in a good way.
It’s a very pretty game, and becomes prettier the better you play, as you skip and slide around each 2D map, eventually getting to the point where you’re relying on twitch reactions and muscle memory to fire out impressive dash-jump-attack-slide combos to weave through obstacles, before your feet lose traction on the dusty walls.
Despite it being a dynamic game, they’ve married it up with a hauntingly beautiful, minimal soundtrack and very subtle sound effects; if you were to only listen to a game of Dustforce being played, you’d think it was Fez, or something by Nintendo. This might sound ill-fitting, but it seems to help encourage your perfectionist ways. Wheras games like Trials Evolution scream hard rock into your ears with explosions and engines revving until you feel the need to put teeth-marks in your controller (it happens…), the soft backing of Dustforce really helps provide some sticking power on the tougher challenges.
Finesse and level completion will combine at the end of each level, with notable scores earning silver and gold keys; gaining you access to tougher challenges. On top of this, consistent dusting can accumulate and grant you the ability to throw out a five-point-palm-exploding-heart-technique of a combo, smashing any threat in sight, rather rewardingly. Whatever this game set out to do, it’s your desire to turn your janitor into a ninja that’ll push you through, and much like all of the great XBLA games, will see you playing the same things over and over again in the hope of gaining those all-important S-Ranks.
It’s not the greatest platformer, or the smoothest, but the soothing movement, the cutesy, clean artwork, and the 50+, challenging, perfection-craving missions mean that, provided you’re that type of gamer, you’ll get more than your money’s worth with this one.