- Publisher: Microsoft
- Developer: Humble Hearts
- ESRB Rating: “E10+" for Everyone 10 and Up
- Genre: 2D Action Platforming
- Pros: Fantastic visuals; fast and fluid gameplay; satisfying exploration; Fidget is funny; oldschool sound effects
- Cons: Long story scenes; story isn't great; Disney reject character designs; upgrades are kinda weak
Dust: An Elysian Tail tells the story of a character who wakes up with amnesia only to have a talking sword and flying cat-weasel-thing named Fidget show up and task him with saving the world. He is called Dust because his past is a mystery - yeah, we don't know what that means either. Monsters roam the lands where they never dared to tread before, and it is up to you as Dust to slice them up and find out who or what is behind it all.
The story overall is unfortunately rather predictable and kind of boring and told through long drawn out conversations with NPCs. It is just dry and super serious. It also doesn't help that the characters are all talking animals that look like they were leftovers from a Disney trash pile. I'm not against cute talking animal characters or anything, but these designs are as generic as you can get which doesn't exactly help you care about their plight.
The combat is the real star here, however. You have a sword that you slash with the X button, jump with the A button, have Fidget fire a projectile with B, and a special attack with Y where Dust spins his sword to create a whirlwind. This spin attack is the key to the game's combat because, when paired with Fidget's projectiles, allows you to create crazy screen-filling fire and lightning attacks that utterly destroy your enemies while you watch your combo counter climb to 1000+. Different enemies require slightly different tactics, so the combat is relatively simple but still very fun. It is absolutely fluid and a joy to play.
The game also features a crafting system that lets you make use of all of the junk enemies drop as you slaughter them. You'll find blueprints along with the required items to make the object and then have to go to a blacksmith (there is only one) to actually build it. It lets you build new armor, rings or necklaces to up your stats, and upgrades for your sword. Truth be told, however, that we didn't really have to use any of the blueprints over the course of the game and random drops from enemies or things we bought in shops were more the sufficient to beat the game.
With that said, though, the combat is excellent and will keep you playing. The actual platforming sections are also surprisingly well done and, particularly in the latter half of the game, will test your oldschool gaming skills quite nicely. The world is also really great looking and the hope you'll stumble upon some new visually pleasing area keeps you exploring even if you know the treasure you'll find will more than likely be disappointing.
The presentation is both the best thing, and the worst thing, about Dust: An Elysian Tail. The character designs aren't anything to write home about, but the animation of Dust and the enemies is absolutely fantastic. The backgrounds also look really great in every area and special effects for all of your attacks are excellent.
The sound is also solid for the most part with nice music and great sound effects. We have to admit, we kind of fell in love with the game from the very start because of the distinctly oldschool sound effects on the menu. The voice acting is only okay, but we liked Fidget's snarky attitude.
All in all, An Elysian Tail is a solid and fun game that is worth playing, and it will keep you busy as well so you'll get your money's worth if you try to explore everything - we beat it at just under 8 hours with 57% completion, so there is a lot to do here. If the upgrade progression was a little more satisfying and the exploration more worthwhile it would definitely improve things, but as it stands it is still a very good game in most every respect that we can easily recommend. You can do a lot worse for $15 (1200 Microsoft Points) on the Xbox Live Arcade, but you won't find many titles with better gameplay or more content. Buy it.