Review: Dyad

Dyad

Being a game enthusiast, I listen to gaming podcasts, follow developers on Twitter, watch previews, and read about as many games across all platforms as I can.  I do all of this so that I can learn about and form an opinion on what is worth playing and what is best avoided.  As with any broad appeal enthusiast medium, every once in a while there is a release that comes out, and everyone gushes over it.  Hype for a game can go a long way to help make or break both the title and the developer.  Sometimes I get sucked into the hype, sometimes I am part of the hype, sometimes I just completely ignore the hype.  Dyad in many ways deserves the hype that it has received, but is it really a game for everyone? I’m not so sure.

Mechanically the game is simple: travel down a rotatable tube at lightning speed while avoiding certain enemies or “hooking” them to gain speed.  Each of the 27 levels has a different goal, and that is where the game becomes very interesting and challenging at the same time.  As progression is made through each section of the game, the mechanic introduced in the previous level (also usually the key to successfully completing the prior level with three stars) is stacked with yet another challenge or twist in game logic.

Some levels require hooking two of the same colored enemy to gain enough speed to complete the stage as quickly as possible.  Other levels require a set number of enemies to be “lanced” before time runs out.  In order to lance an enemy, they first need to be hooked, which produces a small radiant circle that must be “grazed” to fill the lances power meter.  Lancing then allows the player to move quickly through successive enemies without being slowed down.

Further into the game, hooking two like enemies creates a bridge to slide down which allows for faster and faster travel through the tube.  Of course, the game adds in enemies that provide slides to ride on without having to hook two consecutively, but those have strafing guards which if hooked instead of the main enemy cause the slide to not activate.  Other enemies activate slides when hooked but shoot continuous lasers toward the player’s craft/ship/bright shiny tendril thingy.

Yes, I called the ship a bright shiny tendril thingy, because I’m not sure the game ever gives it a proper name (unlike PixelJunk Eden where you control a Grimp–mash-up of Grip and Jump). But knowing the name of the ship (or whatever it is) doesn’t really matter, because the game moves at such high speeds and with so many bright color shifts, that you almost can’t see what you’re controlling any way.  Dyad forces you to focus on what is next.  Always.  Given the high rate of speed at which the game moves, you don’t have time to pay attention to the now, just the next move.  Focusing on the next move while simultaneously zipping down a tube lined with enemies constantly blocking your way or mixing up just enough of which color enemy you need to hook in succession so that you can go even faster is an exercise in both patience, twitch gaming, muscle memory and a pinch of Jedi reflexive meditation.

Zoning out and just playing without thinking is almost certainly the easiest way to get through a level of Dyad.  The more thought you put into each action, the better the chances of hitting enemies or hooking the wrong color to miss creating a crucial slide.  To help with the zoning out part, Dyad overloads your senses with music–or in some cases just noise if the wrong enemies are hooked–that lead the path to quick success.  Lovely, cheerful chimes strung together intone that all the right enemies are being hooked and perfect rotation onto the created slides from said enemies will lead to a successful completion of a level.  Dark, grinding blats and a frantic cacophony of noise spell out imminent doom during a run and can often lead to a splash screen with the word FAILED filling the screen.

Ugh.  There is nothing more taunting and demeaning than a game that teases with simple mechanics but then ratchets up the difficulty by stacking more and more of those mechanics on top of each other and then in bright rainbow colors rubs your face in your inevitable failure.  Each level gives a brief description of a goal that must be met in order to win, but I found that so many objects flashing on the screen at any one time kept me from being able to glance up to the upper left corner to see if I was even close to meeting or beating the intended goal.  While trial and error can help with learning how to win a particular level, the means in which completing and three starring a particular level may not ever be used in any other part of the game.

To add to the devious nature of the game, Dyad only offers up trophies as a secondary playthrough, if, and only if, the original level was completed with three stars.  Even once a level is completed with three stars, the trophy challenge is not a repeat of that original run.  Maybe I don’t have the patience for the game, but three starring each level feels like the supposed promise of the Champagne room.  You know you can almost get what you want, but there is always a bouncer in the corner ready to come out of nowhere to block your tube, slowing everything down.

After many hours of play, I’m not sure exactly how I feel about Dyad.  The phrase, “I hate loving it” almost fits, but so does “I love hating it.”  There is so much going on in each level and each level feels so completely different from the last, such that the game has immense replay value.  At the same time, I find myself wanting to hurl my controller at the screen because I lack the Jedi reflexes to increase my score.  Additionally, the game offers taunting leaderboard information which fuels the frustration and feeling that I could almost get what I want from the Champagne room and be cool like (or better than) the folks on my friends list.

Given that the game was created by such a small indie shop, I can’t help but want to recommend that folks buy it simply to support the developer, but I have to caution that Dyad, while a thrilling audiovisual experience that should be had, simply is not for everyone. Dyad will indeed melt your brain as you attempt to process everything that is going on while parsing what should or shouldn’t be hooked. However, for folks who don’t have the patience and finely honed reflexes of a Jedi master, I would have to suggest giving the demo a trial run first.

TryIt

Pros:
+ Stunning visuals
+ Score chase via leaderboards
+ Plenty of replay
+ Great and unique music for each level

Cons:
- Difficulty builds on each successive level to a frustrating degree early on
- Controls are tight but aiming can feel twitchy at higher speeds
- May induce seizures

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 via PSN
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Right Square Bracket Left Square Bracket
Release Date: 7/17/2012
Genre: Racing/Puzzle/Arcade
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.