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Review: Dustforce

Posted by on February 13th, 2014 | 2 Comments | Tags:

My experience with the Vita version of Dustforce has been, in a word, inconsistent. There are chunks of time where I’m having fun and really digging the flow of platforming throughout each stage while sweeping up trash. Then there are times where I’m ready to throw my Vita across the room or making weird faces as I watch the frame rate drop rather dramatically. Over the past year we’ve seen this idea of “Best on Vita” be pushed around with a specific regard to a number of indie games. While that may be true for many other games the fact of the matter is that Dustforce is in no way shape or form “best” on this platform.

In Dustforce you’ll play as one of four janitors as you jump, slide, run, and sweep your way through various levels cleaning up trash as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Each janitor plays slightly different (one jumps higher while another has a triple jump) so that specific characters are better suited for specific levels. From the game’s hub, The Nexus, you’ll choose from four different areas (Forest, City, Castle, and Laboratory) which each contain a number of levels of varying difficulty.

Around half of the stages in the game are unlocked directly from the beginning. From here you’ll need to get high rankings in each stage to unlock silver keys which unlock silver doors. You’ll then need to score high in those silver door stages to unlock gold keys that will, you guessed it, unlock gold doors. Unlocking keys requires you to earn a SS rank on a stage or lower scores across multiple stages. So if you can’t get a SS rank you could get an AA across two stages and still get keys. The ranks are determined by Completion, whether you’ve cleared all of the trash in a level, and Finesse, if you completed the level without losing your combo, which are graded from D to S. While getting a SS rank on some levels might be trivial it’s the silver and gold door levels that will prove most challenging and frustrating.

Something I loved about time trial stages in a game like Rayman Legends was the way in which the level design and movement of your character blended together naturally. There was a flow to your movement in that game that just felt really really good. That’s not exclusive to Rayman Legends as a number of other platformers have it. Dustforce shares in that feeling, and even moreso to some extent, in that when you perfect a stage not only do you feel awesome but the whole thing is just mesmerizing to watch. The way your character moves throughout the level feels like they’re on some sort of ride rather than just platforming through another level. Unfortunately, if we’re to focus on the Vita port of Dustforce, things start to get pretty ugly.

Some PS3 Version Thoughts
While some of the issues Curtis mentioned do appear, overall it is the more polished of the two versions. I did notice that the audio gets incredibly choppy when I was attempting to capture gameplay footage using the record feature. This is a PS3 exclusive feature which allows you to record while you play and will spit out an encoded file on the XMB after you finish the level. One thing that Curtis didn’t mention that I really like, is the ability to watch the fastest times from the leaderboards. Reminds me a lot of Pacman CE DX. Also a big plus to the PS3 version is that it supports the use of a Dualshock 4, the best way to play any game in my opinion. If you have to choose between the two versions, I would strongly recommend picking the PS3 one.
— Chris

While it’s not present in every stage there are instances in which the frame rate stutters. Some stages are worse than others while most stages you’ll find are pretty much fine. There is one stage in particular that comes to mind that’s located in the Laboratory section in which the frame rate plummets. Backup Shift from the start of the level and throughout feels like it’s running at about half the frame rate as the rest of the game. This is a stage with very narrow pathways and even smaller room for error. What would typically be a very difficult stage is made even harder thanks to the game’s poor performance. Frame rate isn’t even the only issue with the game as the audio will sometimes completely cut out. I’ve experienced the audio bug a few times but it seems pretty rare. On that note though the music in this game is REALLY GOOD.

Vita concerns aside I found myself battling with the controls in Dustforce. In the game you need to point the analog stick or D-pad in the direction you need to move when you’re attached to a wall. This all should be simple enough but for whatever reason I consistently found my character flat out not responding to my inputs. The worst offense would come when I needed to run up a wall that was slanted. In these cases you’d need to hold up and to the right or left but even when doing that it’d only work half the time. Other times I’d try simply running up a wall and my character just wouldn’t do it. There were also times where I’d not be able to use my double jump for no apparent reason. Numerous times I’d go to use my second jump in mid-air expecting to propel myself the rest of the way towards a platform only for my character to continue falling downward onto spikes. If nothing else the controls in this game left me confused and frustrated. I don’t mine owning up to being bad at a game especially when it’s supposed to be really difficult and there were plenty of instances that I failed a stage in this game because of my own faults. That said this doesn’t take away from the times that more often than not I had to fight against these controls to get my janitor to do what I wanted.

I honestly never expected to have the experience that I did with Dustforce. This has been a game that I’ve been excited to try for so long now that I’m just left feeling empty. I want to believe my problems the controls are unique to me but at the same time I’ve talked to others who share my frustrations. Even then this is a precision platformer and shaky frame rate absolutely kills a game like this. With this game not available for cross-buy. The few fleeting moments of fun I did have with the game at least have me curious to try the PC version, in hopes that I might have more luck with that, but at this moment I just can’t recommend Dustforce on the Vita to anyone.

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.

General Info

  • Inconsistent controls
  • Frame rate drops
  • Audio bugs