The fifth game, Dust: An Elysian Tail, is paired with Deadlight as the only two Summer of Arcade games this year that actually seem XBLA-y. But both of these games give the impression of having been built around a checklist, at least on a conceptual level. Dust is going down the checklist associated with the traditional Japanese ronin Samurai story with a few crossovers from the action RPG list - you've got your lone broody warrior type who's obviously way too young to be as jaded, skilled or as angsty as he is, he's motivated to defend the innocent from a growing evil that blights the land, and he was probably more of a dick in his shadowy past he conveniently can't remember. And just to complete the comparisons to Usagi Yojimbo, everyone's a humanoid furry animal. Ho yes, that was no accidental misspelling of "tale".
So Dust is a 2D Metroidvania-style action RPG platformer with exploration and side quests and the like, and is hands down the best of the bunch. But that's not saying a whole lot, and it has problems of its own. The combat is floaty as shit and the slightest button press on your part can send your character zooming all around the battlefield spinning his sword around like a toy helicopter over a heating vent, and it makes things hard to control. The most you can do is leap into a group of enemies and then hold on for dear life as you zoom away, paying close attention to the confusing clustered mass of pastel-colored enemies and particles, trying to figure out when you're about to be hit so you can slam on the dodge button. But at the same time it's way too easy, too. Your attack power probably ramps up too fast, so that most enemies can be killed in seconds just by helicoptering in their general vicinity. And I'd like to ask how the game expects me to build a 1000-hit combo when half the enemies die in three hits.
But as I said, definitely the best of the bunch. Smart of it to come out in this year's Summer of Arcade, because even the slightly plain of us become the center of attention when surrounded by all our ugly friends. One last word on Dust's visual design, though; we should have all figured out that cyan is a fucking hideous color around the C64 period. Please don't dress your main character exclusively in it.
You probably thought I was going to be down on the whole furry art thing, didn't you. Well, I don't want to be one of those internet guys who claims that everyone who does the anthropomorphic art thing secretly wants to fuck dogs, because I'm sure it's just a vocal 90-95% percent who do. I didn't have a problem with it in Dust since it seems to be channelling the aforementioned Usagi Yojimbo. But having said that, when the animal people in your world are established to wear clothes, the one sidekick character flying around naked with their disturbingly humanoid feminine proportions flapping in the breeze might sit a bit close to the sexualization line for some people. I think that's technically known as the "Princess Sally Acorn line".
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.