Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NYCC 2013: Dustforce

For four days, people came to the Javits Center in New York City to experience one of the largest conventions on the east coast: New York Comic Con 2013!  Fans of comics, movies, television shows, and toys came together to revel in their hobbies, and with them came video game companies to show off their wares for the upcoming holiday season and beyond.  We here at 3RM attended a few of those days, and we have impressions and video to provide from our experience!



At Capcom’s booth there were a number of downloadable titles on display, and one of them was the console port of Hitbox Team's Dustforce, a combo-heavy platforming game about dust and ninja janitors.

Dustforce stars four unique janitor ninjas in their effort to clean the corrupting filth of the world. The team consists of a blue janitor with his broom, a red janitor with her push broom, a short purple janitor with feather dusters, and an old green janitor with his vacuum cleaner. While each have similar controls, they each have slightly different movements, such as jumping a touch higher or attacking faster. The point of the game is for these ninja janitors to race through each stage and clean up as much mess with as much ninja skill as possible. Playing the demo I got to try out a forest area covered in leafs in need of sweeping. Racing into the stages, my janitor would run along walls, across ceilings, and clean off any leaf-covered animals in the stage all while avoiding multiple hazards.

The gameplay of Dustforce was very reminiscent to N+ and other wall-running platformers. The largest difference Dustforce brought was its focus on cleaning up the stage while racing through them. As I ran through the stages, I would clean off the surface I touched, be it floors, walls, or ceilings. Besides wall-jumping, the janitors could also quickly dash forward, double-jump, and even super clean the entire screen once they accumulated enough of a combo meter. Occasionally, I stumbled onto enemies made up of dust or animals turned evil by the dirtiness. By attacking these airborne enemies, I not only freed them from the clutches of messiness but also my janitor earned the ability to jump again to reach higher enemies or more leaf-covered flooring. The major emphasis of this title was to clean off all the surfaces without stopping in order to keep the combo score increasing. At the end of each stage, I was ranked based on my time, how much I cleaned, and the combo score.  Clearly this game was designed more about mastering the combos than beating the stages, as they were nowhere near as frustrating as other indie platformers out there such as Super Meat Boy. However, I did have some difficulty judging my jumps and accurately using my cleaning skills. In order to clean a wall or ceiling, I had to move the joystick in the direction of the mess before I got there. This tended to throw me off, but it could have just been poor reflexes.

The game’s graphical style was a unique blend of colorful geometric forms. Rather than represent each character and leaf with realistic detail, everything was simplified to simple vector forms of color, designed as if everything was toon-shaded. The game also ran at a silky smooth framerate with fluid animations, which complimented its fast-paced action. As for the game’s audio, I sadly wasn’t able to make it out in the noise convention hall, so I will have to judge that at another time.

Dustforce, the ninja janitor platformer, was a joy to play, but I could see that mastering each level is where this title is going to push players. I do hope that the other regions in the game offer unique platforming gimmicks to keep it fresh in order to stand out from all the other challenging indie platformers. With its unique style and premise, I look forward to give this title another go when it comes out on consoles.

Dustforce is available now on PC, Mac, and Linux, and it being ported to XBLA and PSN this upcoming January.

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