I have played my share of leaderboard-based games, and let me put it out there before I commence this review: I never was a fan and probably will never be. Having a top score as a purpose is not entertaining for me and will never be able to subdue my needs to go beyond what is on offer.
I hate Dustforce with a passion and would actually have chucked it around the room were it a physical game. The premise of progress through scores is a mindless exercise of OCD infused tantrums of rage quits and ego boosts. Were it up to me, games like it, Super Meat Boy & N+ would not exist. At all. I understand games that are meant to torment you, perhaps even scar your gaming experience while allowing you to experience new things, but to be tortured because your score was not adequate enough is a practice in masochism.
Dustforce is a simple 2D game that has you traverse through levels choosing one of four janitors, each with their own slight tweaks like higher jumps, faster sweeps…etc., with intent to clean up the world. How they do so is by cleaning up levels from dust and dirt, freeing their friends who seem to have been abducted by dust and making life so much better to live in. I’m used to simple ideas and love finding hidden nuances that more times than not reveal details and a better understanding of what’s going on. Journey is a game about a creature setting off on a pilgrimage, yet hidden beneath that shade is a wondrous world to be discovered and experienced. Dustforce is about janitors who clean. Highly inspiring.
But games like Dustforce are not meant to be enjoyed for their offering, rather for their challenge, and that is the only element that I will offer to its credit. Very few games successfully frustrated me as fast as this one: 3 minutes, maybe less. If you are not a fan of twitch mechanics and precision maneuvering, you are going to quickly find yourself short of $10. This game is all about perfection and forces you to complete every level immaculately. In fact, Dustforce has an easy method to establish if you are the right candidate for this game: Fail the first level and you may as well shut down the game because things are only going to get harder.
Each level you select to go through will have dust strewn all around it in a seemingly random order. Your task is to build up a high combo multiplier by constantly sweeping dust and attacking dust creatures in a continuous cycle. Granted, if pulled off perfectly, your progress will mimic a dance and it will be a joy to behold, but that’s a big IF. Lest you’re accustomed to such games, you will fumble, miss your cues and drop your multiplier back down to x1 which ultimately is the game’s way of saying: Restart the level.
With so many advancements in video games, and so many new experiences being engineered on a constant basis, it’s a wonder how games like Dustforce still find an audience. I am far from being the proverbial gamer and am very specific about what I enjoy while maintaining as much objectivity as is possible, but to launch a game whose sole purpose is to stress me out and force me down a path of perfection is an outrage.
Are there players who love these games? Undoubtedly. I will always struggle to understand the need to play games such as Dustforce, even on a multiplayer front, and I will probably never recommend it. However, I am willing to admit that if this is your kind of game, you will find a lot on offer under its hood, from a ridiculous challenge, to great music and animations.
Dustforce was released on Steam in 2012, and we were given a PSN copy for review purposes.