Welcome to Easter Eggs, where the TA Team shines the spotlight on games that many gamers might have missed, perhaps hidden away behind the millionth copy of Call of Duty or FIFA. Much like a gamer who finds an Easter Egg hidden away in a game and proceeds to trumpet it from the highest hills and forums, the TA Team is going to be featuring these Easter Egg games on the front page for all to see.The word “digital” is being associated with the gaming world an increasing amount nowadays. As technology advances, the way in which games are distributed changes. Do you remember when all console games were disc-based only? That’s all but changed now. Downloadable titles are numerous and the quality is exceeding further than we could have imagined from years ago. You could even say that they rival retail titles in quality. With this second arcade title to feature as an Easter Egg, I hope to prove that notion. Raise your swords to Dust: An Elysian Tail, a hack-and-slash adventure that redefines the way we see arcade games today.
You play as Dust. This mysterious figure awakens in colourful woodland with no clue who he is, where he is, and what his purpose is. Luckily, a sentient sword called Ahrah and a flying nimbat named Fidget appear almost by acts of fate, and from here, the game begins. Through the words of Ahrah, Dust is sent on a journey to discover his destiny and as players delve further into the game, they will uncover a story that is deeper than many other arcade titles out there. Why is there a talking sword? Why is a high-pitched, flying, yellow thing following you around? And why is the main character named after a particle of dirt? It sounds anything but basic.
On the outset, Dust is a hack-and-slash title. The game is presented in a side-scrolling fashion, so you will be moving from left to right, or up and down as you traverse the environments. A multitude of enemies stand in your way and so Dust wields Ahrah to cut through his foes to reach the next pivotal moment in the story. Sounds like your standard action game from this perspective, right? Not quite. All of these elements and those above questions will make total sense as you play the game.
Dust is a beautifully presented game. When Dust wakes up, there is a mixture of greens, yellows and blues surrounding him to form the environment. The further on you go, the more environments you discover. All of these locations are consistently well-crafted and diverse. One minute you are in a tranquil town with unique characters, and the next, you're in an underground labyrinth full of giant, shining mushrooms, waiting to uncover what lies in wait at the bottom. The characters themselves are equally beautiful as well. You will have to get used to not seeing Dust's eyes, though, as he tends to hide his full face under the giant hat that sits on his head. Fidget acts as the sidekick. She was originally the sword's guardian, and so is practically bound to Dust as he uses Ahrah to seek his identity and purpose. It is impossible not to notice the beauty of this game. It's astounding how fantastic the art style and voice acting are. There is a relationship with these characters. They feel like living, breathing people and not vehicles to just move the game forward. There is also the rare occurrence where cutscenes play out in an almost anime-like style. They look nearly identical to the game itself and so it's hard to fault the graphics on this one.
With a hack-and-slash title, we expect to see some good combat. The gameplay of Dust is very simple to pick up, and it is extremely easy to create crazy and flashy looking combos in an instant. You will start with a basic moveset, and eventually gain more abilities as you go on. One such attack is "dust storm." Dust will spin Ahrah frantically, causing a whirlwind of damage to anyone who comes close. Be careful, though, as using it for more than a few seconds at a time will cause poor Dust to hurt himself due to his own recklessness. Eventually, Dust will be able to spin through the air with this attack and reach high up enemies with ease. Fidget can also aid in combat by firing her projectiles. On their own, they are not that useful, but a special mechanic can cause a flurry of chaotic awesomeness appear on the screen. If the player initiates a dust storm when also firing Fidget's projectiles, it will cause her attacks to become lethal as the projectiles multiply and soar into enemies and all over the screen. Gaining combos of high magnitude are constantly encouraged as more experience is gained if you finish an encounter with a higher combo. This may sound insane, but it is easy to reach a combo counter that goes WAY into the hundreds. Enemies are well-designed and there are always plenty of opportunities to unleash Dust's rage upon them.
Dust is able to level up and hoard all sorts of gear in his journey. Just like an RPG, he can upgrade his attacks, health and defense, but he can also level up Fidget's own attacks, making the dust storm combo even more dangerous. It's very important to get good gear as later areas will increase in difficulty, especially the final area. Fortunately, the game isn't too complicated, so anyone can pick up the way it works. If you manage to find the blacksmith, you will also gain access to crafting, and even more options open to you. Another aspect of RPG's we see here is a quest system. The main questline will always loom over everything else, but you are encouraged to speak to each character you meet and learn something about them. They may give you a task to complete and so you may find yourself scouting an area for an item or defeating a certain number of enemies to gain something. It's nothing too innovative, but it adds more meat to the game and encourages exploration of each of the game's environments. Luckily, fast travel opens a little later on and so it's never too hard to reach a location. Lastly, secret arenas will reward players who seek a greater challenge. They are dotted around the world and if you want to brave them, they will test your endurance to see if you can make it to the other side in the quickest time possible.
The list is comprised of thirty achievements, all of which don't pose too big of a challenge to completionists. The majority of quests will need to be completed to nab Savior of Falana and the best rating will need to be achieved on every challenge arena to obtain The Stuff of Legends. The Stuff of Legends is one of the harder achievements but with enough dedication, it can be done. If you explore further in the game, you may come across special cages that (when unlocked) will reveal characters that you may or may not recognise from other adventures. I won't spoil it, but the Baker's Dozen achievement will surely have you searching high and low for them. You will also need to complete the game on Hard, but you won't be tearing your hair out if you don't rush through. Apart from these specific achievements, it's an easy-to-do list with a variety of story, combat and exploration related tasks.
Just short of 11,700 TA'ers own Dust and 19% of those gamers have gained all of the achievements. On average, most gamers have unlocked sixteen of the game's achievements.
Our community has given Dust a very positive 4.4 rating, but Metacritic have been ever-so-slightly harsher by giving the game an 83, which is still a solid score.
Dust currently resides on the marketplace for £9.99 / $14.99. That price alone warrants a purchase for anyone who is curious to try out the title, but it has been on sale a number of times. This lucky writer managed to grab it for about £3-4 on sale which is an absolute steal for this game. If it ever is seen in a sale again, consider it a no-brainer.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is a true arcade gem. It would have been missed by yours truly if it hadn't been on sale, but even if you pay full price you will not regret your decision. There is plenty of content to be experienced, and moving up to a higher difficulty adds extra replay value if you're so inclined. The game definitely rivals retail titles, at least in the graphics department. It looks stunning every second you play, the characters are all voiced very well, and show emotion that can sometimes be rare in an arcade game. The combat is fast paced, and because of how easy it is to master, anyone and everyone will have a whale of a time creating wacky and insanely-numbered combos. If you decide to pick this one up, it may very well become one of the best arcade games that you have ever played.
If there's a game you'd like to see featured in Easter Eggs, be sure to let us know in the comments!
We've got the full list of Dust: An Elysian Tail achievements - check the list for guides to unlocking them.