Most people see a janitor’s job as being a boring, mundane occupation. What if you were a janitor cleaning up not only trash and dirt, but taking out dirt monsters while performing acrobatic moves in the air? Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well, that’s exactly what you do in Dustforce.
You play as one of four cleaners as you navigate a world covered in dust, slime, leaves and other garbage. It’s up to you to tidy up the world and clean off its inhabitants that are being controlled by the unclean. The story is somewhat minimal, but in a game like Dustforce, you really don’t need too much back-story.
The game is an action platformer where you control the janitor as you run through a level. You can run, jump, double jump, attack with both heavy and light attacks, run up walls and even run across ceilings. All of this is done with a simple mechanic that can become very complex once you start playing some of the more challenging levels.
The game has a hub world that serves as a place where you will find doors that lead to different levels. Here, you can explore to find new areas and gather keys floating around the world that will unlock shortcuts to certain locales. The locales vary greatly, including a forest, a science laboratory and a downtown city.
While in a level, you are timed and tasked with both cleaning the area of garbage. This can be easily performed by walking over the trash. You will encounter enemies in some levels. Hitting enemies and removing the garbage from them will count as removing trash as well. This will all come into play with the combo meter. By cleaning up the world, a meter will fill and a combo counter will begin going up. When the meter is full, you can then perform a special attack that will take out multiple enemies and clean everything that is on the screen. You complete a level by reaching the end of the stage and taking out the enemies there.
You are graded on how much of the world you cleaned and how “flashy” you completed the level. By “flashy,” I mean keeping your combo going throughout the level. You have about a 4 second window to clean something before dropping your combo. If you get hit by an enemy, it will drop the combo as well. Completion and Finesse are very important factors to Dustforce. You see, many doors you encounter in the hub world are locked, and the only way to acquire keys to unlock new levels is by getting an S rank in both Completion and Finesse. This can become bothersome, especially in the later levels. You will end up playing the same level multiple times just to get a key.
Playing as the different janitors does offer up a little variety. They each play a bit differently, but still keep the same overall feel. You can choose which janitor you wish to use before each level.
The game does offer local multiplayer, as well. Unfortunately, I was unable to play with anyone so I can’t comment on the multiplayer aspects of the game. It would have been nice to have online multiplayer in a game like this, but I guess you’ll have to settle with local play.
The game is visually beautiful. The art style has a hand-drawn, almost cel-shaded look. Everything animates wonderfully, and you can tell that a lot of time was devoted to making the animations look great. The music is also exceptionally well done. The chilled music, mixed with almost 8 or 16 bit sounds really make the game pop. The presentation is top notch in Dustforce.
The controls will take some getting used to. The game does offer controller support, which, to be honest, is a godsend. I played almost an hour with the keyboard controls, and I think even the most seasoned PC gamers would have trouble with them. Even with a game pad, it will still take you a while to understand exactly how movements, particularly scaling walls and ceilings, work. Once you do get a good grasp on how they work and are executed, the game becomes a blast to play.
There are online leader boards for the competitive players out there, along with replays, so you can see exactly just how that one guy got an S rank in a particularly tricky level. There’s even a level editor. It wasn’t available during my time with the game, but I was assured that it was coming soon.
For ten dollars on Steam, if you’re looking for a more chilled version of Super Meat Boy, and don’t mind playing some of the same levels again to get it down perfectly, you really can’t go wrong with Dustforce. The overall package has a lot of levels to play, even with some of them locked until you get some keys. The presentation is fantastic, and the price is right. It may take some getting used to, but if you put in the time, you can have a good amount of fun. I have to say, for an indie title, this is a rather impressive game.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher.