Dust: An Elysian Tail is the final addition to this year’s Summer of Arcade on Xbox Live Arcade. For 1200 Microsoft Points (about 15USD), you can get your hands on this Metroidvania style action RPG. The only question you should have is, will this live up to last year’s Summer of Arcade hit action RPG Bastion?

I am happy to report that it goes beyond the sheer awesome that is Bastion. Don’t get me wrong, Bastion was my game of the year last year but Dust is now in the running for my Game of the Year this year. The graphics are beautiful, the story is powerful and compelling and the game play is fun and inviting.

In Dust: An Elysian Tail, you play as Dust, a warrior who can’t remember his past or his identity and is searching for answers in the present. With companions Fidget, a nimbat that breaks the 4th wall often, and Ahrah, a sword that seeks Dust out to help him learn about his identity,  he ventures into a beautiful hand-painted world of interesting and unique characters.  There is a darkness that surrounds the world that adds more to the mystery behind the main character.

Our hero rises!

The amount of color and detail with the graphics is above and beyond any other game I’ve seen to date for XBLA. The easiest way to describe it is comparing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night meets Disney animation. The amount of detail is breathtaking and refreshing. With a vast variety of different backdrops and settings, there is nothing to grow tired of looking at while you play.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the game was fully voiced, and that the voice actors truly fit the personalities of each character. Each line is very well acted and you don’t end up with horrible lines like you would find in an older, English-dubbed Dynasty Warriors title. I especially fell in love with Fidget’s character. The numerous times she comically breaks the 4th wall are magnificently done, and made me appreciate the script even more.

Meet Fidget

Overall the story is rich and compelling. There are times that I would push further into the game just to see what was next and experience more of the story. The mystery that surrounds the main character, the world and how it unfolds is well paced and leaves you wanting more after each major story point. Some of the AAA developers and publishers might want to take notes while they play through this game, because everything is done extremely well.

The combat system is very easy to get into and figure out. The player is rewarded bonus experience based on the number of times they hit enemies and chained their attacks together. There is a funny side quest where the game challenges you to get a 1000 hit combo. It’s not very hard to do something awesome when it comes to killing bad guys, but getting an actual 1000 hit combo is pure legend. Best I’ve gotten so far is 417. The combat is easy to learn, but hard to master.

One of the many enemies you will encounter.

Dust isn’t a perfect game though. In some of the platforming sections where precision is key the controls were a little lacking. There are a couple of really frustrating parts if things aren’t lined up absolutely perfectly. Seeing how they should line up isn’t an issue but getting them to is. More times than not, the character was sliding off a platform down into spikes, or wall jumping from one side to the other into a bunch of spikes that I felt Dust would have clearly overcome. At first thought this was more an issue of the user than the game, but the more focused I was on the issue the easier it was to see that it was the controls. Fortunately, these sections are few and far between, so it’s only a minor inconvenience.

Overall, Dust: An Elysian Tail is well worth the time and the money. Even though it has minor controller issues, the whole package offers up and experience that is well worth the time.  What makes Dust truly impressive is most of the game was created and put together by one man alone. I was looking forward to this title, since the early trailers made their way to the internet two years ago. I can only hope that I get to experience more of Falana in the future!