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Dust: An Elysian Tail Review

Whilst platform games do not seem to warrant shelf space at your local retailer any more, the birth of digital downloads has given us access to some true greats that sit proudly with the classics of the 16bit era; Dust: An Elysian Tail is one of those games.

Starting us off with very little introduction, we take control of Dust who has awakened in a strange forest by a magical talking sword called Ahrah and its guardian, the ever so helpful and cute imp/bat creature called Fidget. Not having any recollection or who he is or where he is from Dust begins to travel through this strange land, battling an ever present horde of monsters along the way. But as the tale unravels Dust begins to doubt some of his actions and starts to ask why these monsters are attacking, why everything feels so familiar and why is he wearing the uniform of a mad General's army?

Though Dust: An Elysian Tail is essentially a side scrolling action platform game the first thing that grabs your attention are the outstanding visuals. With so many games of this generation offering visuals of such a high standard it is rare something stands out, Dust does; it beams out of the screen with the lovely contrast of bright and colourful Disney styles against a darker Manga feel. Levels are full of cute rabbits and birds flying around a beautiful woodland backdrop, all full of almost sickly sweet cuteness until you come across the slimy and grotesque monsters looking to stop you, all perfectly animated and realised.

Dust: An Elysian Tail builds on a solid hack and slash mentality with an ever growing list of combos and special attacks, constantly evolving and allowing for more unique ways to dispose of your enemies. Very early on Dust is bombarded with a decent set of moves, mixing between the X button for standard attacks and the Y button for more powerful attacks, you quickly learn some brutal combos capable of hurling foes into one another or tossing them into the air for even more damage. Your progression through the game is marked with even more special powers, not just for you but for Fidget, who can also get down and dirty, initially spewing a few globs of light and earning upgrades as the game progresses. Though Fidgets special moves are nothing really special at first, when shot into your blade whilst pulling off the Dust Storm move it will split them up, creating a whirlwind full of projectiles, increasing their power and racking up plenty of hits and with it combos that earn you levelling up XP points.

Dust also has a quite deep character building element to it. With higher combos you earn greater XP which will then allow you to increase specific areas of your character from health to attack and defence. Felled enemies also drop coins which you are able to spend at shops and blacksmiths. These are littered throughout the lands and offer you chances to purchase rare materials and trade or create new items of armour from blueprints found around the levels. The main story will take you to most areas of the world, but it is the side quests that earn even more rewards, with you being offered plenty of smaller quests from in game characters that boost your cash and XP, plus thanks to Fidget?s unique abilities, she can sniff out treasure, with the main game hub flashing with possible treasure chests for you to ferret out. There are also Challenge Arenas that pit your platforming and fighting skills against some seriously challenging mini dungeons, dodging fire and taking on all manner of beasts to get to the finish line with the best time and score, the better you do the more bountiful the prize. Though you can take on any area that has unlocked to venture through and carry out side quests, a handy flag on the map will always notify you of where the next part of the main quest lies, should you ever lose track.

Dust: An Elysian Tail is one of those games that pleases the gamer from start to finish, from the exceptional artwork and animation to the tell-tale sign of the grid based map in the top corner, Metroid and Castlevania fans will know that where will be a lot of hidden and unreachable paths to overcome with the unlocking of new powers and it is in this that will keep you going; finding an unreachable area with a hint of some bounty behind it and later in the game finding an item or move that will unlock the way; the game is littered with moments like this.

Dust could almost be classed as the missing link between the fall of the classic platform games and the rise of the more 3D based games, with stunning visuals and gameplay worthy of the best that the classics had to offer but with a more modern feel. This is an amazing debut entry from Humble Hearts and a great finish to this year's Summer of Arcade.

Review Policy (version tested: Xbox LIVE/Xbox 360)

Edited On 17 Aug, 2012

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