Chris Sawyer, sole developer of RollerCoaster Tycoon
, once said that "many game designs suffer from having too many people working on them, losing their individual character and becoming games that look and play like so many others." Dust: An Elysian Tail
's animator-turned-developer, Dean Dodrill, programmed, animated for, planned out, and otherwise developed this game on entirely his own effort, save for a few sound people and a smattering of voice actors. He has nothing to offer you but his blood, toil, tears and sweat; times when he would have to cram ten months' work into three, times when his Christian beliefs were put to the ultimate test, even times when by some sheer luck or divine intervention, the solution to an impossible problem of development would come to him in a dream. And when the fruit of his labour came to see the light of day, it became a perfect example of the kind of game Chris Sawyer was talking about. A game that one man was sure he wanted to create, with his will, intention and vision left unspoiled in the final product by the opinions of the many others who would be working on it otherwise; a work of art with his personal signature left in every facet of it.Dust: An Elysian Tail
captures the aesthetic of an animated movie almost perfectly, with just a few mature touches to keep its older audiences interested. Its characters, plot and background lore may not be the most complex, Shakespearian thing you've ever encountered, but if anything, they will charm you. In fact, I would compare the story more so to an ancient myth or tale of legend. Despite its animations only being about 12-24 FPS, which is pretty standard for animated works, it runs at a smooth, 60 FPS, and is uber-responsive to controls as well, so that it still plays fluidly with controller or keyboard. Especially considering the majestic hand-painted backgrounds and stages, as well as even the slightest shader effects, like light refracting around icicles, and bloom/lens flare effects that make their presence known, but don't overstay their welcome, I would call this, to my knowledge, the best-looking 2D game we've seen yet.
Though the aesthetic of the game may grow to be your neo-childhood, the gameplay mechanics are fuelled on pure testosterone. Being the closest thing that I know of to a fantasy-action-exploitation-film-turned-beat-'em-up-Metroidvania, it carries an emphasis on stylish swordplay, massive combos, and looking like a total bad-♥♥♥ in the heat of battle, as well as some RPG-like mechanics, like stat levelling and equippable items, that you'll pay more attention to in the quieter moments, to add some complexity and sense of progress. In fact, you may find yourself caught up in an inner struggle over whether to raise the difficulty to add more challenge, or keep it the same to retain the feeling of being all-powerful. As is standard with Metroidvania-type games, there are hidden areas that can be accessed as you gain new skills, and great attention was put into making these areas still enjoyable to look for, and not just like a long, tacked-on extra journey.
As was mentioned before, the plot isn't exactly the most complex thing out there. In a game like this, it actually works out for the better. It was a refreshing change to play a game that seemed so innocent and honest with itself. Even the protagonist, Dust, starts out innocent - he follows the trope of the amnesiac hero, having just come to in a forest with barely a memory of his past self. There's plenty of baddies to slice and dice your way through, sure, but Dust: AET
is really just a journey of self-discovery that, as you play through and the pieces come together, slowly morphs into something truly epic. It gives you a rush unlike any other to fight your way through the final level, and to get to the final boss and pulverize him multiple times, even until the very end of the game, made me the most satisfied I'd felt with any game in quite a while.
In conclusion, this game is criminally underrated. No review, including mine or any other, will completely do this game justice. You have to buy it to fully understand just how Dodrill's inhumanly hard work all paid off to create the best experience I've received from a video game in a long time - and you will, too.And for those who get tremendously upset over the fact that this game contains anthropomorphic animals, who cares? Playing this game won't turn you into a flamboyant, hyper-sexual sparkledog of a furry. It is something that almost everyone can enjoy, as long as you remove any prejudices about this game from your mind. Unfortunately, that seems to be the main thing holding people back from playing it.