Dustforce review

By Ozzie Mejia, Jan 30, 2012 2:45pm PST

There have been some difficult platformers released in the last couple of years. That Dustforce stands out as one of the toughest says a lot about the game. It's sure to appeal to platforming perfectionists. That’s not something I would have have imagined myself ever saying about a game centered on broom-wielding janitors.

The object of Dustforce is to clear dirt, leaves, and grime from each stage. It doesn’t sound appealing on the surface, but the janitors all carry a freakish sense of agility. They can run up walls and along ceilings, leap across walls, perform a brief air-dash, and use special moves to clear the screen of dirt. These are the types of moves that I’m dying to perform as a ninja or a samurai, but Dustforce let me perform them as a janitor. One particular move I loved was the cleaner’s special move that clears the entire screen of dirt, making the area shinier than Mr. Clean’s bald head.

Dustforce carries an off-the-wall premise and it’s loads of fun to play with thanks to its inspired level design. Even the earliest stages contain spike pits and collapsible dust walls that will test out any player’s platforming skill, with later levels amping up the difficulty level significantly. Among the hardest levels for me were those that required multiple wall jumps, made harder still by the fact that one errant jump would send me into a nearby spike pit.

The most brutal aspect of this game, however, is in its grading system. Perfection counts heavily in this game, with secret levels remaining locked until I could fluidly clear certain levels of dirt the first time through. There are some levels that I still haven’t been able to access thanks to this parameter and with the demanding grading scale, I don’t think I’ll be able to anytime soon.

There’s one big issue with Dustforce’s demand for custodial perfection and that’s the game’s controls. Dustforce is playable with the default keyboard controls, but they’re incredibly difficult to navigate and racking up a perfect run is nearly impossible. I had a lot of trouble with the wall-jumping mechanic and many of my combos were broken as a result. The individual controls can all be mapped out to a controller, which makes this game much easier. I did have a few incidents where my analog stick didn’t respond to trying to run up a ceiling, but overall, a controller is highly recommended over the keyboard.

Fans of parkour and acrobatics will get a kick out of Hitbox Team’s Dustforce. The characters’ moves are cool to look at and fun to pull off. Be forewarned, however, that the difficulty level of this game is incredibly high. Those that get easily frustrated may want to steer clear. Gamers looking for a legitimate challenge and some new leaderboards to frequent, though, will feel right at home with Dustforce.

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