I didn’t even know there was a PC version of this game before I started playing the PS3 version, so I was delightfully surprised to find that Dustforce is the little platformer that could! *Author’s note: Many, many sweeping jokes were played with but I figured you’d heard them all by now. So, moving on.
Dustforce is a 2D physics platformer where you select one of four of your janitorial staff and go to various levels and sweep (or vacuum depending on character choice) the crap out of everything! Along the way, you encounter possessed rats, birds, scientists, even the occasional radioactive barrel that you have to pummel so you can sweep up the mess. From level to level, the junk that needs to be swept will be in more and more difficult spots that require you to use all of your little dusters wall sliding and sweeping skills to get at.
If this sounds like a video game version of your daily chores, think again. This game is so addictively fun and charming that you’ll never look at sweeping the same. With fun and challenging level designs and unique to eavh area foes to battle, Dustforce keeps you engaged even though you are basically doing the same chore repeatedly and on your own time. No two levels look the same and each brings its own unique difficulties. Where one area may have extra monsters to battle, another may have an abusive amount of spikes that require very precise timing to get around. Each level keeps you on your toes as it delivers its own challenges that keep you with an iron tight grip on your broom.
When you begin Dustforce, most of the levels are locked behind… well, locked doors. The only way to unlock these doors is to collect keys from levels you conquer along the way. This is where they get you. You can’t just skim through a level and collect your key. No, if you want to move on to a new and exciting level, you better get your sweeping and sliding down to an art form. Getting as close to a perfect score as you can (which is particularly hard to do for finesse, trust me) will get you those coveted golden keys and unlocking Dustforces’ secrets.
The main drawback to the game is that the controls are what you would call finicky. It’s kind of a coin toss that pushing up will get your janitor to slide up the wall or for him to jump off of it again. While this can be irritating, the single player game is still a lot of fun and extremely addictive. The other thing that I found to be quite annoying was something that I didn’t pick up on for some time. This seemed very obvious in hindsight, but I didn’t clue in that the four characters weren’t just for colour preference, but they each have different abilities, something the game doesn’t tell you! So, when I was stuck on a level forever and decided to do a little internet cheating and see how others had passed it, the character abilities were revealed to me. A more detailed tutorial could have solved both this problem, but in no way did either of these drawbacks spoil the game for me.
The multiplayer aspect of the game was what I felt was the weakest aspect of the game. The cool part was the ability to play as the ‘dirty’ bad guys who lay gunk down in opposition to the janitors cleaning ability. The two modes, King of the Hill and Survival, both lend quite a bit of fun and you can play them online with up to eight people (which can take some time to find), but these games involve little to none of the platforming of the game and are mostly about pummelling your opponent. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun, but after spending so much time perfecting my double jump, air dash, upslide into a power broom swing combo, I was kind of hoping I was going to utilize more of those skills.
While the graphics are an updated throwback to old school platformers, this isn’t a drawback but instead adds to the games charm. The minimalist characters run around against fairly detailed backdrops that look great in this sidescroller. Also, the music is wonderful! A mix of electronica and 80’s game soundtracks, I found myself humming along to the songs as I cleaned up the various rooms.
Overall, Dustforce is a great game. It’s fun, it’s addictive and it has a learning curve that demands you keep improving. While the multiplayer isn’t nearly as entertaining, at least it offers you a good way to scrap with friends or strangers. While the controls and the tutorials could be improved, Dustforce has more going for it than it has detracting from it. If it comes with some updates along the way, it will even offset the minimal price tag and make it an even better bang for your buck purchase!