A Mini-Review: Dustforce
The world needs more wuxia janitor platform games, doesn’t it? Hitbox Team thought so, and the result is Dustforce.
You play as a janitor, sporting coveralls and a broom. There are levels in the forest, the spooky old mansion, the city, and the laboratory. No matter where you go, there’s dust and junk scattered on the floor and walls. What’s even worse, some of that dust and junk seems to have possessed the hapless forest critters and construction workers of the area, turning them into sinister messiness monsters! It’s up to you, your trusty broomstick, and some graceful parkour moves to clean this little world up!
Dustforce plays similar to Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s all about carrying your momentum as you traverse surfaces and climb walls and bomp dust monsters with your broom. The aesthetic is thoroughly and enchantingly cute. There’s a spooky cloud of leaves levitating above your head! So you whack it with your broom a couple times, and out pops a thankful little raccoon. Precious. Totally fun.
At first, the game seems really easy. Then you realize that there are only 16 levels (out of about 50) that are open to you. The rest are locked behind silver and gold padlocks. How do you open said padlocks? You need to get a perfect score on an existing level – an “S” for super in both Completion (sweeping up every bit of dust, and knocking out every dust monster) and Finesse (completing the level without ever losing your combo chain or getting hit). It’s tough on some levels! I am personally bummed out that you can’t just play your way through the game, but instead have to go back and keep working on each level after you’ve already beat it. C’est la vie. I contacted the designer about my disappointment with this design choice, and they had the grace and courtesy to talk their decision through with me. They’re adding additional basic levels to the game soon, which is nice, and definitely mitigates the “oh, what a bummer, that’s all that I have unlocked so far” effect that I was feeling.
The areas don’t vary that much in gameplay, that I can tell. The laboratory levels have more ground monsters and “which spot do I jump first?” puzzles, perhaps, and the spooky mansion levels have more flying monsters, perhaps. They do look strikingly different, though, which is really cool. In the forest, you sweep up leaves, and you bomp leaf-monsters that turn out to be hapless little woodland creatures. In the spooky mansion, it’s dust, and you’re whacking animated gargoyles and flying books. The areas are cute and the monsters are clever.
All in all, Dustforce is fun, but if you’re looking for a game that you can play through without tooth-gnashing skill challenges, it’s probably not for you. I’m frustrated that one cannot progress through the game without first performing flawlessly on all the levels. That said, I do think gameplay is really fun and the visuals are really lovable. Plus, I rarely get an opportunity to pretend to be a badass chick wuxia janitor.