There are few games where the profession of the main character(s) form the basis of the game mechanics. In Dustforce, that is precisely the case.
Dustforce is a 2D side-scrolling platform game from Hitbox Studio and was published on the PlayStation Network by Capcom. The game sees you take on the role of a janitor with ninja-like abilities as you are tasked to complete levels which are filled with dirt and grime.
Cleaning the levels in Dustforce isn’t some throwaway gimmick; it forms a path that is key in achieving the best times to complete the levels. Dustforce uses a score system to show progression in the game. After the end of each level you will earn a rank for your efforts in both Completion and Finesse. Completion is how much dirt you have cleaned and Finesse is the speed at which you complete the level. Doing well in both will net you an S rank and earns you progress towards keys, which unlock levels.
Levels are accessed by opening the locks using either one of two types of keys –silver or gold. Silver keys are used to unlock most levels and gold ones are reserved for some of the more tricky stages in the game. The actual gameplay in Dustforce is one of those examples where it’s easy to play but difficult to master. The game is platforming-focused and allows you to make use of different techniques to navigate the levels. These techniques are based on various ninja moves, such as wall-running, wall-climbing and double jumping. Dustforce gives you the option of four characters, each with their own feel and ability. The choice is mostly down to personal preference as to which is the best, though some levels are easier with certain characters.
The levels in the game also have enemies which can be attacked using two maneuvers, light attack and heavy attack. There’s also a special attack which is made available by chaining together attacks and collecting dirt from the level. Getting 100 dirt fragments and enemy hits allows you to use the special attack, which eliminates all foes within a small radius.
Enemy variety is scarce. One is your standard enemy, another is airborne and the last is a much larger variety, which takes more hits to kill. Standard enemies take just a few hits to defeat, or one heavy attack if timed right and the heavies take more. The special defeats all enemies in one hit if you use it in an area of different foes. When certain adversaries are defeated, animals get freed which may be a reference to Sonic the Hedgehog. Each level area has different-themed enemies; for example, the library stage has books as foes.
The combat is the game isn’t the focus, which makes the included multiplayer modes rather odd. Multiplayer in Dustforce is combat-focused and has two different modes: Survival and King of the Hill. There is the choice to play as the cleaners or the enemies who produce filth for the other teams to clean. It’s really nothing more than a short distraction and won’t keep you hooked for long.
Other than multiplayer, there are leaderboards, which allow you to compare your level times and scores with your friends, and the rest of the world. Another feature is being able to view level runs, which can be saved and uploaded. What this does is show you the best path and which character to use. This is a feature that was definitely made with the social media generation in mind — it’s just a shame the Vita doesn’t have a Share button.
Playing the PS Vita version, Dustforce looks and sounds great when using headphones. The soundtrack is influenced by the 16 bit-era and complements the game very well. However, for a title that requires precision like platformers of old, the Vita version is less than perfect.
The framerate of the game isn’t as smooth as it could be. There can be sharp drops, which stutter the game and can ruin your current level run if you’re trying to go for S ranks. Otherwise, the framerate is fine but it doesn’t feel as smooth as it could be. Another issue is that the controls can get problematic. The inputs are simplistic but because the game is quite fast, there can be times that they aren’t recognized properly, which gets frustrating.
Dustforce is a must-play for anyone who loves 2D platform games. It’s challenging, addicting and is perfect if you love to speedrun through any given game. Sadly, the PS Vita version has problems which take away from a game that is suited to the handheld better than most.
Dustforce was reviewed for PS Vita with a review code provided by Capcom.