PSN exclusive Dyad embodies the best aspects of old school videogames because it's both incredibly accessible and incredibly difficult at the same time. Its basic concept is quite simple and only uses few controls, so you can pick it up and play it after about five seconds of instruction. It isn't too hard to make a fairly successful run in Dyad, but the real joy of the game comes from mastering its nuances, practicing until you get three stars on every track. The amount of repetition and concentration required will either make you rock back and forth on an endorphin high or drive you into a bone-twisting epileptic fit. Both are perfectly reasonable reactions to Dyad.
Your goal is to race down a glowing tunnel as fast as you can by hooking onto enemies and pulling yourself forward. Hooking matching pairs will give you a speed boost, and gliding through the aura of hooked enemies will build up your lance meter, which you can use to move even faster. Courses get more complicated as you move through the game, adding things like bullets, lance boosters, lance cancellers and whatnot, but that's the basic gist of it. Some tracks are flat out races and others require you to complete a specific goal, such as destroying a certain number of enemies, but no matter what your core task, speed is always an important element. Colliding with enemies or getting shot will slow you down, so you'll have to maneuver around them by rotating your cursor around the cylindrical track . Early tracks do an excellent job of introducing you to the controls while gradually adding more and more elements. What starts as a fairly simple journey down the glowing obstacle soon becomes a multi-layered obstacle course streaking past at light speed.
The faster you go in Dyad, the more you feel like you're seconds away from coming completely unhinged. The light effects add a real sense of movement and barely-contained chaos that reminds me of doing 180 MPH on a motorcycle. (Not that I would ever do that, of course. Do the speed limit, kids. It's the law.) It's exciting and frenzied, the trippy visuals often get in the way of the actual gameplay, and you'll probably find yourself crashing into enemies simply because they were obscured by all the colors. Even when you're not traveling at ludicrous speed, the bombardment of colors can be a bit overwhelming. Visually parsing out what's what can make you feel like your brain is imploding ... but that's what makes Dyad fun. Or awful, depending on your personal gaming temperament.
Attaining mastery of Dyad will take a great deal of practice and patience, especially in the later levels. In many ways, Dyad is pure gaming - there's no plot, character motivation, or moral choices to be had, just challenges and the skills necessary to defeat them. Once you've gotten three stars on everything, you can tackle the Trophy requirements, which put slightly new twists on each course. You can even mess around with the audio track if you feel like tweaking the experience even further.
Bottom Line: Dyad is elegant and joyous, a hurricane waiting to be tamed - and you might hate it. That's true of every game, I know, but this is one of those games that you will either want to beat into submission as you bend it to your will, or one that you'll play for a few levels and abandon as soon as the learning curve starts to arc too high. There just isn't a whole lot of in between here.
Recommendation: If you enjoy Jeff Minter's work, or are a fan of games like Rez and Child of Eden, you'll want this, no question. If you're up for an experience that will put your gaming skills to the test while filling your eyes and ears, give this a go.
Developer: ][ Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment