Also On: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Hitbox Team/QLOC
Aesthetically speaking, I can't think of many games I've played that measure up to Dustforce. It's one of those games for which the phrase "a feast for the senses" was invented.
First and foremost, it looks gorgeous, with graphics that make it feel like a pixelated dream — though, I should quickly add, this is no 8-bit pastiche. It's retro-inspired, to be sure, but not many retro-looking games are able to look to the past for inspiration and have the end result come out looking this lovely. Likewise, the soundtrack is outstanding. It's all downtempo and laidback, and it really feeds into the whole ethereal vibe the game has going for it. And, to top it all off, watching your character move across the screen is a treat; the term "poetry in motion" is so cliched, yet I can't think of a more appropriate way to describe how your janitor swoops and jumps across the screen.
So it looks like a dream. Does it play like one, too?
In a word, no.
In many more words…it's complicated. Dustforce's controls on the PS Vita seem to be a little subpar. The game calls for razor-sharp precision with most of your jumps, and, time and again, I found that a little difficult to achieve. Recognition of double-jumps — one of the key aspects of gameplay — seemed a little finicky; sometimes the game allowed you to have a discernible gap between button pushes, while other times it wasn't so forgiving. The same, too, goes for wall jumps and ceiling runs; sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn't. That said, the game was notorious for its degree of difficulty on PC — a fully justified reputation, as far as I'm concerned — so I'm hesitant to ascribe too much to its shortcomings when they could just as easily be my own. Or, to put it more bluntly: I suck at it on Vita, but I can't tell how much is me, and how much is the game.
I'm inclined to believe it's a little of both. I'm fully willing to own my awfulness, but I had far fewer issues with it playing on PS3. Jumps were much more responsive there, and in general the precise timing that was required seemed to be significantly easier to achieve.
Of course, both the Vita and the PS3 versions of Dustforce seemed to have some technical issues — and I say this as someone who usually doesn't notice that sort of stuff unless it's blatantly obvious. Which means that here, it's pretty freaking obvious. Everything slows down at random times throughout the game (rather than just at the end of levels). Music cuts out and stutters for no apparent reason. I'd say it's not game-breaking stuff, but at the same time, it did full-on freeze on me at least three times (twice on Vita, once on PS3).
All of which is to say: I'm not sure whether I can totally recommend Dustforce. On the one hand, it's so wonderful to look at that it seems like it'd be a crime to not suggest you buy it. On the other, if it's not a broken game, at the very least it's one with issues that absolutely need to be fixed before it can truly be called playable. If you absolutely need to have it, proceed with caution (and only pick up the Vita version if you absolutely must have it on the go, you can overlook major technical flaws, and you feel compelled to buy it to convince Capcom to lend more support to Sony's handheld).