DustforceÂ may sound like a late-night QVCÂ cleaning product, presented by an under-slept, over-paid and frankly misplaced salesperson but in this case, itâs a game. It was originally released for Steam, back in 2012 but has now made its way to Xbox 360, via Xbox Live Arcade. If youâre not familiar with this title, itâs the very epitome of ânever judge a book by its coverâ. At first glance, this is a 2D platformer, in whichÂ the primary focus is to sweep crap off the floor. It appears to beÂ a caretaker simulator, which is frankly the most depressing prospect Iâve ever been presented with. Frankly, Iâd rather play a Holocaust simulator and spend my afternoon learning the best techniques for gassing Jews. I can scarcely imagine a worse game. Even SuicideforceÂ seems like a more appealing experience. I love Super Mario but I would never have played it if Mario ever did actual plumbing and it was simply a game, in whichÂ the principal aim was to unblock Princess Peachâs Royal bog. If I were to have judged this book by its cover, I would never have read it and would, in fact, have used it as kindling in my log fire. I donât even have a log fire. I would have built a log fire. I would have spent hours in B&Q fighting through crowds of Sunday DIY bores, spent a fortune and subsequentlyÂ spent an entire Bank Holiday constructing a fireplace for my flat, solely for the purpose ofÂ incinerating this horrific waste of tree guts. In fact, I wouldâve been happy to burn my house to the ground, just to beÂ safe in the knowledge that Dustforce was dead and could no longer present a treat to either myself, my loved ones or the rest of society. However, I did read it. I read it because it was my job to read it. Frankly, Iâm glad I did.
Anyone whoâs familiar with my work would be forgiven for thinking I can beÂ somewhat critical. Therefore, you may think that I actually enjoy hating games. This isnât true. I love games and am always disappointed when I play a game that underwhelmsÂ me. However, I wanted to hate this game. I wanted the opportunity to rip it to shreds. Unfortunately, I find myself both disappointed and pleased in equal measure. The truth is, Dustforce is fantastic.
The basic premise of Dustforce is to navigate various courses, sweeping/vacuuming as you go. The player does with a choice of four characters, each with their own attributes, such as speed and jumping height. The aim is to clean every bit of dirt, in the quickest time possible, with the most finesse possible. This seems simple enough, you might think. However, thanks to some punishing, evil genius levels of course design, the route from A to B is one fraught with frustration, regular death and trial and error. There are pitfalls, obstacles and spiky floors aplenty. Fortunately, our four caretakers are not the chain-smoking, alcoholic border-line sex offenders with questionable personal hygiene and social skills we all fondly remember from our childhoods. These caretakers are effectively Ninjas with brooms. They can wall jump, wall run, ceiling run, double jump and dash, to name just a few moves. Thanks to a comprehensive tutorial stage, picking up the basics is relatively straightforward. There are around fifty levels in total, in various âworldsâ, such as City and Forest, each with their own unique visual and aural themes. These worlds and the levels thereinÂ are accessedÂ via a series of doors. Navigating these stage selection areas can beÂ as challenging as some of the stages themselves, which is an unusual dynamic. Itâs like going to SainsburysÂ and having to complete a steeple chase to reach the eggs. Some doors are lockedÂ and can only be unlocked by acquiring keys. This is achievedÂ by performing well in the other stages. Upon completion of a stage, the player is scoredÂ on both completion (percentage of dirt collected) and finesse (completion time). These scores accumulate until, eventually, a key is awarded. This is reminiscent of Super Mario 64 and is a welcomed addition.
The difficulty of the stages in Dustforce quickly increases to intense and brown trouser-inducing levels of craziness. Each stage has a pre-determined, ideal path from A to B and the aim is to find this path. This is not as easy as it seems, as getting lost is commonplace, as is dying. The player is fighting a constant battle between momentum, accuracy and survival. Itâs a fine balance that goes awry often.
Where the game really comes into its own is in the Ranking system. There is a global leader board for every stage and a lovely element to this is the ability to watch playersâ recorded runs through the stages, in order toÂ pry into their techniques. Once a leader board has been discovered and pillaged for inspiration, the game takes on a whole new dimension of repetition and perfection. Itâs easy to spend several hours on the same stage, taking a fastidious and pedantic approach to every minute detail and moment until reaching a satisfactory level of achievement.
Visually, the game is pretty but simple. In a game like this, where the player moves quickly through the levels, thereâs little or no time to admire the scenery. So, I can forgive HitboxÂ for creating such simplisticÂ visuals. They work. The soundtrack is everything you should expect from an arcade platformer. It can sometimes feel like youâre playing with an episode of Pokemon in the background but itâs atmospheric, varied and not distracting.
Where DustforceÂ falls flat on its face, unfortunately, is in its Multiplayer. Although the options look like fun, itâs more than likely that youâll never have the opportunityÂ to play. Thereâs simply no one playing online. Over a period of several days, I attempted to join games, only to be told there was literally no one else in the entire world playing online. They must have all been in B&Q. This is always the danger with smaller titles such as this and itâs a shame.
Overall, DustforceÂ is a brilliant action platformer thatâll have you hooked, just as soon as you move past the fact that, conceptually, itâs ridiculous. The very notion of this game is the most ridiculous thing Iâve ever seen in my life, and Iâve seen Made in Chelsea. However, itâs brilliant fun and great value for money.