Although I’ve already played Dustforce for PC, I’m a console gamer at heart and never much cared for the hardware and hassle that accompanies PC gaming.
That’s why Capcom and Hitbox Team’s announcement that Dustforce would be making its way to the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita was welcome news. The PS Vita seemed like the perfect fit for a pocket-sized Dustforce, and I felt the game’s art direction and solid gameplay would complement the Vita library nicely.
Now that it’s finally upon us, is Dustforce Vita a dream come true, or does it suck harder than a janitor’s wet/dry vac?
If you’re unfamiliar with Dustforce, it’s a parkour-inspired platformer that has you sweeping the streets clean – literally. As one of four unique playable characters, your goal is to jump, climb, and skour every stage, clearing all the grime and debris you can find as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
While you can take a leisurely approach to Dustforce, exploring its enchanting environments at your own pace, the real fun is in trying to best your own time and score, earning a place on the Leaderboard. The level designs are clever and challenging, demanding you play with surgical precision if you ever hope to reach a respectable rank. Fortunately, there’s a ton to see and do, so if you’re not the competitive type, you may still have a good time scurrying about Dustforce‘s four worlds: Forest, Mansion, City, and Laboratory.
Falling in line with the rest of the game, each world holds its own charm and character. The Forest stages lead you through a lush wilderness as you brush the leaves from various woodland creatures, while the Laboratory has you scrubbing the slime from computers, scientists, and even lab rats. This variation keeps things fresh, making it a blast to play again and again as you attempt to top your previous score.
To progress through the main game, you’re expected to clear each level with the best combo (Finesse) while cleaning the stage as thoroughly as you can (Completion). Based upon your score, you’re occasionally awarded a silver or gold key, which in turn lets you open doors to more challenging stages.
Along with a trusty dash and double-jump, you’re also capable of three attacks – light, heavy, and a special move that clears the screen, but can only be used once your power gauge is full. Running up walls and even along the ceiling is effortlessly managed using the left analog stick or d-pad. While it takes some getting used to, the controls are easy to pick up and fit the Vita like a glove.
Unfortunately, this is where my praise for Dustforce Vita ends. While Dustforce Vita is near-pixel for pixel port of the PC version with light extras (menu touch controls, etc.), it’s leaden with technical problems that prevent it from being the definitive port it should have been.
Most notable are the frame rate and slowdown issues, which disrupt the game’s natural flow. This causes the generally responsive controls to feel sluggish, which is make or break in a game that requires the player to be so meticulous with his actions and movements. More than once, these complications threw off my rhythm, causing me to lose my chain or stumble over what would have been an otherwise routine jump.
In the more crowded stages, the visual clipping and slowdown become more apparent. If Dustforce PC is a super-smooth magnet train, Dustforce Vita is a steel-clad steam engine, chugging along as best it can.
Still, it’s not that these mechanical headaches are constant – which they are. It’s that they seem to waver in and out at the worst possible moments. While you may not find it as distracting as I did, it’s definitely noticeable and hindered my personal experience with the game.
In desperation, I even experimented with the Wi-Fi switch, disconnecting from the Internet in hopes that it would help – it didn’t. This led me to revisit the PC version of the game to confirm that this problem is isolated to the Vita port – it is.
And in case you’re wondering, the PC version is just as splendid as it was the last time I played it.
Graphics & Audio
Dustforce‘s art direction is clean and original. It absolutely shines on the PC, and on the Vita you’re getting more of the same – well, mostly.
While the game looks swell in all its pastel glory on the Vita’s OLED screen, it’s not full 1080p – and it never will be. Not knocking points here – just setting expectations. It looks good, but don’t expect it to have the same high-res luster you’ve experienced on Dustforce for PC.
The audio is another issue entirely. While the same gracious soundtrack from the PC version is present in Dustforce Vita, it sporadically cuts out. Aural hiccups become the norm, and they’re highly disorienting – especially if you play using headphones.
This is a massive disappointment, as the game sounds so very, very good otherwise. As I paused the game to jot notes for this review, I couldn’t help but smile at the music dancing in my ears. It’s such a shame that technical glitches blaspheme such a beautiful, high-quality collection of in-game music.
The audio glitches were most apparent whenever the game had to perform some “strenuous” action. Using the Vita’s screencap feature, pressing the PS button, and even navigating menus caused the audio to clip in and out for several seconds. Even entering a stage from the Nexus is accompanied by jitter, as though the game is taking a moment to pause and consider what it has to do next.
When it’s not glitching out, the audio is magical, and I can’t stress enough how great Dustforce Vita sounds with a good set of headphones.
Buy It, Try It, or Skip It?
Try It – The first time I played Dustforce for PC, I was smitten by its spotless gameplay and dazzling soundtrack. Dustforce Vita pales in comparison, plagued by technical issues that – while not necessarily game-breaking – prevent it from being anything close to the definitive version of the game.
At its core, Dustforce is delightfully fun, challenging, and highly addictive. It’s regrettable that gamers won’t find that same polished experience on the Vita. The stammering frame rate and vexing audio glitches are an unfortunate distraction in a game that requires players to be nimble and quick to react.
If you’re looking for a sure thing, you can’t go wrong with Dustforce for the PC. You can even play it using a Dualshock 4 instead of a keyboard. Though it requires a bit of work to set up, it delivers a more immersive experience.
Regardless, I suggest you hold off on this one until Capcom and Hitbox Team release a patch. With a little bit of elbow grease, this could easily turn out to be the best way to get your Dustforce fix.