Designer Dean Dodrill has created an amazing side-scrolling action game.
I wanted to review Dust: An Elysian Tail because it looked beautiful. That and because, being part of XBLA's Summer of Arcade, the game had a chance at joining the revered company of titles like Braid, LIMBO, and Bastion.
Dust does so with firm steps. Up to it's release, it's the game's cartoon visuals that have garnered attention. Designer Dean Dodrill is a master at wedding foreground and background. The floating platforms ubiquitous in the former are textured with great variety, and alongside beautifully hand-painted backdrops, they can convey a vibe of quiet safety in one instance and wild danger in another. I would go on, but why don't you just have a look?
The world within begs to be explored further and further, and that world is a joy; a fantasy universe not unlike that of Brian Jacques' Redwall series, which takes different animals and species for its characters. This proves a strong showcase for the game's cartoony aesthetic, balanced by a pretty grim storyline.
Plot is big in Dust. As you quest through deep cave and tall mountain, you'll have no trouble recalling why it is that you're fighting through this or that corner of the world. Part of this is because of some seriously involved voice-acting lent to the game's many pages of script. Every line is spoken with such thespian inflections that they can actually become kind of grating, depending on your sensibilities. Still, they purposefully put the story in focus, especially as they come from creature characters as varied as animals can be.