The gaming industry market is filled with gorgeous and exciting 2D platformers nowadays, whether it’s Rayman, Donkey Kong or Meat Boy, they make gamers relive the simple but pure joy of two-dimensional space. I’ve put many hours into games like Limbo and Rayman Origins/Legends and though I’m not a true hardcore platformer player at heart, I’m beginning to get the hang of it. And so I’ve taken up Capcom’s Dustforce with an open mind and an excited appetite for jumping and vaulting obstacles.
In Dustforce you play the role of what we call, a “janitor”. But of course you’re more like a ninja janitor. A ninjanitor! Your role is to sweep away patches of goo and leaves while avoiding deadly spikes and dirt-covered monsters. While it may prove very difficult in the beginning, you’ll receive a great deal of satisfaction once you earn that perfect score.
The most important aspect is the whole economy of movement. You have your basic running and jumping, but the tricky thing is that you must combine them with dashing, double jumping and sometimes even triple jumping (if it involves a wall or defeating a foe mid-air). Once you touch the ground again, the movement system resets and you may start those double-jumps again. It may sound confusing, but thanks to the game’s tutorial (which is completely missable if you are not paying attention) you’ll get the basics of it in no-time.
There are multiple levels like the Park or the Laboratory, each of them having a different type of waste and foes and each level having numerous unique stages. The goal is to reach the end of the stage while cleaning everything as fast as possible. At the end of each stage you are graded based on completion, finesse and speed. Performing well enough will get you keys which grant you access to other, more challenging stages. You also have a combo meter which fills every time you clean and defeat a foe and once it’s full, you can launch your character into a devastating attack which destroys every enemy on the screen. Also, at the beginning of each stage you may choose one of four characters. While the game doesn’t tell you this, each character has subtle differences regarding speed and jumping distance. But every single one of them has two attack types: a light one and a heavy one. While the heavy one may destroy an enemy with a single hit, it leaves a trail of filth which you may clean up and boost that meter. You can chain all these moves in a variety of combinations which represents the core of this puzzle-platformer title.
The level design is great, as well as the audio and visual ones. The music in the background fits the game perfectly, making you feel alert while being calm at the same time, immersing you into the level, while the visuals consists of soft colours and soothing styles. For example there is this level, at the top of a mansion, where you jump and strafe through a haunting fog and stone gargoyles and there is no music in the background at all. This creates a deep and intense atmosphere which fits the surrounding environment.
The game also has a multiplayer mode, which involves a king-of-the-hill type of game. There, some of the players play as the handymen, cleaning filth just as they’re used to, but other players play as their alter-ego rivals, spreading dust and goo all over the map. Of course, the game doesn’t tell you any of this, so in the beginning you have no idea what you’re doing.
The game’s biggest downside is its controls. They feel heavy and slow and are not as precised as they should be, given the tasks you have to complete and often leads to countless deaths and frustration and while you have numerous checkpoints in a stage keeping you from restarting from the beginning, it narrows your chances at getting that perfect score. The game also lacks a story which would’ve given the player a reason to keep going and motivating him while bringing the title’s beautiful world to life even more. Another downside is that the game just throws you into the world, not telling you exactly what to do and where to go. While this gives the player a benefiting sense of independence, it also feels a little bit shallow.
Dustforce is a well-rounded platformer, making you take quick decisions while moving at full speed through gorgeous-looking levels, but fails to live up to its full potential and with so many other platformers out there that deliver a much better experience, it’s difficult to keep up.
Final score: 3.5 out of 5.