Dustforce Review

The war against dust, grime, and general untidiness rages on. Originally released on the PC in 2012, Dustforce puts you in the shoes of four acrobatic janitors whose mission is to sweep the world clean of filth. The game is a kinetic platformer that challenges you to find the most efficient route through its winding stages. This new version, released for the PlayStation 3 and Vita, keeps that same core gameplay intact, and is more or less a straight adaptation of the old game on new hardware. Even so, Dustforce is still an enjoyable game that mixes a tranquil world with some seriously tough platforming.

As I noted in my original review, Dustforce has a strict economy of movement. Running and jumping are easy enough, but there are restrictions on how many times you can dash or jump again while in midair. It’s a bit confusing at first, but the game provides a comprehensive tutorial that quickly brings you up to speed on how to maneuver through this world. The simplicity of Dustforce’s early stages also helps ease you into your new role as ninja custodian before the game quickly ramps up the difficulty.

Each of Dustforce’s four heroes controls a little differently.

After you finish a stage, the game judges you on completion (did you sweep up all the garbage?) and finesse (did you sweep up all the garbage stylishly?), as well as noting your time. Each stage has its own leaderboard where you can compare your best time against others. You can also watch runs from other players through the leaderboard, which is an especially useful way for improving your own times on the more difficult stages. PlayStation 3 players can also record their favorite runs for later review, a feature that is missing in the Vita version.

Completing stages rewards you with gold and silver keys that unlock more advanced stages, and those behind the gold doors are no joke. Spikes, bottomless pits, and numerous enemies test every ounce of your platforming skill. Dustforce involves equal parts planning and execution, and feels at times like you’re playing a puzzle game. The developers have an optimal path laid out for you in each stage. All you have to do is find the path, and walk it. It’s an enjoyable challenge, and successfully mastering a stage is very satisfying.

Of course, reaching the finish line on those harder stages involves a lot of trial and error. This could drive some people to the breaking point, but Dustforce keeps you at ease with its soothing soundtrack and lush world. In my previous review, I mentioned how the music has a calming, trancelike effect akin to that ofinMomentum and Mirror’s Edge, and that definitely holds true in this new version. The score is complemented by a soft pastel color palette that is easy on the eyes and doesn’t distract you with too much visual noise. Both elements work in harmony to keep you focused on the task at hand.

The simplicity of Dustforce’s early stages also helps ease you into your new role as ninja custodian before the game quickly ramps up the difficulty.

There are plenty of secret areas to discover in Dustforce. There’s even one on that little ledge up there.

Multiplayer in this new version of Dustforce remains the game’s weakest feature. Both modes–Survival and King of the Hill–put the focus on player-versus-player combat rather than terrain navigation, the game’s strong suit. Both modes also lack any sort of matchmaking function, and after each match ends, you are immediately booted back to the main menu without the option of a rematch, which means re-creating your lobby all over again. Ultimately, the online multiplayer feels like a negligible addition to the game.

Multiplayer aside, Dustforce remains a delightful platformer that is both soothing and stressful. The game’s pleasant world invites you in and puts you at ease, before shoving you off a cliff and into a bed of spikes. Or into a bottomless pit. Or sometimes a bottomless, spike-lined pit. The difficulty curve is smooth, but when it hits its apex, the challenge within is brutally satisfying.