Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Review: Dyad (PC)

Riding some zip lines in Dyad
In early tracks it's reasonably easy to see what's going on
There have been a decent number of games with glowing, pulsating, minimalist visuals that have players barreling down some corridor or predetermined path doing all sorts of groovy things.  Some make a concerted effort to have a strong gameplay element with tight controls, score attacks, and the like, while others go for a more ambient experience where players can just turn off their brains and enjoy the ride. Dyad tries very hard to be the former, but winds up playing more like the latter. While there is a slew of gameplay mechanics and such that players can try to master, a lot of the time it is very hard to see what's going on in the game just because the amount of glowing and pulsating light is overwhelming. It leaves one resigned to enjoy the game more from a visceral standpoint than from one where players have a strong command of what is happening on the screen.

The "groovy things" related activities that Dyad throws at players are quite varied, but shape the game to be a rather abstract arcade racer. Players control a squid-like creature that zips down a glowing tube, grabbing glowing orbs in front of it. Grab two of the same color in a row and get a speed boost, and over time this also leads to the creation of zip lines that, when traveled upon, make the squid go even faster. All the while more and more gameplay mechanics get heaped on and intermingled into the experience, as players unlock more advanced courses.

Becoming invincible in Dyad
In later stages it gets increasingly difficult to pick out
targets from all the other glowing lights
In theory a lot of the elements that are introduced over during the game should be pretty interesting, but actually executing them doesn't work so well. It's important to see specific types of targets, and then plan ahead to string them together, avoid them, or collide with them, but as one gets further into the game it becomes increasingly difficult to clearly see all the little glowing doodads. The biggest problem is that in a lot of latter levels the backgrounds glow and pulsate intensely to the point where it washes out a lot of what is happening in the tube your little squid guy is barreling down. This can be further exacerbated as one gets better at using zip lines, and starts to really move at high rates of speed, so not only does the player need to try and make out the various targets in a kaleidoscope mess of glowing lights, but they need very good reflexes in order to hit the targets in that final split second where their brain finally sorts out what's in front of them amidst everything else that is going on. The game would really benefit from toning down the crazy psychedelics, as the actually gameplay is neat, but ultimately difficult to deal with since its drowned out by Dyad's sensory overload. It's almost to the point where it feels like the game is teasing players by including a trophy mode because it adds more good ideas that should be fun as a challenging score attack, but often times it's difficult to enjoy because of the other chaos going on.  Also, hard work isn't really rewarded right now because the leaderboards seem to be broken.  High scores aren't being put up properly at the moment.

That being said, if you just toss away any plans of going into Dyad with the intention of really sinking your teeth into some meaty gameplay, it can be reasonably enjoyable. Simply zipping down that glowing tunnel, while various glowing, pulsating lights tickle the brain's pleasure centers feels pretty darn good. It can be quite enjoyable to just go into a sort of mental cruise control, and just enjoy the experience. It's a type of fun that can be had in 10-15 minute doses.

A pretty, glowing tunnel
If one ignores gameplay and just
wants eye candy, Dyad is good for
that
Obviously there is an overarching artsy feel to the game. It's most prevalent in terms of the visuals the game has gone with, as it has a bit of a Rez vibe going on. However, Dyad's audio also deserves a mention. The music is very good, with a nice selection of electronic music. There are quite a few tunes, actually. Moreover, a number of them interact with what players do with their squid while playing. Things like becoming invincible, lancing enemies, and riding a zip line all impact the music while playing, and this is often on top of creating specific sound effects.

For people that simply want an experience full of flashing lights, high speed, and a snazzy soundtrack, Dyad is a game to consider. It's the sort of game that will tickle the senses. However, it's probably best not to get expectations too high in terms of the various gameplay mechanics. There are some good ideas here, but they're overwhelmed by all of the visual effects that are being thrown at the player.

Pros:
- Pretty lights
- Nice music
- Enjoyable to cruise along and just enjoy the ride

Cons:
- Visual effects are so overpowering that it takes away from actually enjoying several gameplay elements
- Leaderboards are broken

Score: 7.0 / 10

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