Review of Dust: An Elysian Tail (Xbox Live Arcade)

This’ll be the last of the Xbox Live Arcade Reviews for a while, as I’m more of a big-budget retail gamer. So is An Elysian Tail any good, or will it just acquire dust on your digital shelf? Ha, see what I did there? With the dust? Pun? Oh, whatever… time for the review…dust_an_elysian_tail_image14

Dust: An Elysian Tail is the story of an anthromorphic cat with a talking sword and his quest for righteousness. He has a companion fairy-squirrel thing named Fidget, and meets a whole host of other fuzzy characters along the way. It’s part Sonic the Hedgehog and part Mass Effect, as there’s some seriously hardcore dialogue in this game delivered by surprisingly adorable creatures. Seriously, there’ll be this pudgy little fox telling you about a mass genocide on the other side of town, and you’re left thinking “what kind of audience does this appeal to”. One word: Furries.

Anyway, story and characters clearly aren’t the core of this game. They just provide the backdrops for what is a deceptively fun beat ’em up mixed in with some beautiful environments, a combo that manages to entertain for a little while. The gameplay is restricted to about four buttons, and all other inputs are just for quick commanding of items. There’s jumping, basic “mash x” attacks, sparkly light emissions from Fidget, and another button that lets you turn those sparkly lights into laser beams. It’s a nice little quartet, but nothing you haven’t seen before. The game tries to embellish this with RPG elements, but they just come off as unnecessary, when all is said and done. dust4

Once the novelty of the core game has worn off, you’re left with the pretty artwork that you’ll see as you play. All of the environments were supposedly hand-painted, and it really shows. Everything from creepy caverns to radiating waterfalls looks mouth-wateringly gorgeous, and is a pleasure to look at while you mash random buttons to take out hordes of enemies.

The game’s got some serious length going for it, and is on par with Trials Evolution in terms of how much time you can invest in it (in my opinion, of course). Fifteen hours can cover the majority of quests, but there’s lots of hidden items to be found and whatnot that makes exploring the expansive lands of Dust a fun task.

Pros:
-Quirky yet oddly intriguing character design
-Superb artwork
-Gameplay has its moments
-Solid level design and environments
-Feels unique to the genre of classic hack ‘n slash
-Good orchestral music
-Whole game practically made by one guy (he deserves a nobel prize)

Cons:
-RPG elements
-Gameplay doesn’t have enough depth to consistently entertain
-Odd dialogue and character combinations
-Fetch quests. These things annoy me so much.

I got Dust purely out of my longing for a unique beat ’em up. That’s what I got in the end, but the entertainment value ran out of steam around the five hour mark, and everything after that was kind of a slog. With that said, if you don’t get bored of the same button mashing combo a trillion times over and value art over gameplay, Dust: An Elysian Tail is right up your alley.

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