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Dyad (PlayStation 3) artwork

Dyad (PlayStation 3) review

"My god. It's full of stars!"

Dyad is the kind of game that makes you unconsciously lean forward as you play it.

It’s basically impossible not to be sucked into this game, developed by Toronto-based indie studio ][ (also known as “Right Square Bracket Left Square Bracket”). Aesthetically, there’s nothing like it. Each stage is a seemingly infinite tube, with bright, colourful, kaleidoscopic patterns on the walls. As you zoom through stages, hooking onto enemies to boost your speed and propel yourself forward, atmospheric electronica music plays. The music is dynamic, changing to suit your speed and progress through the stage. Sound effects also change with the stage, matching the current tune, blending into the experience while still giving you the necessary audio cues to play effectively. This game is worth playing simply for the graphics and sound. Though watching it can prove completely confusing, everything makes perfect sense once you hold a controller and allow yourself to become engrossed. It’s like the “star gate” sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey, only without the creepy space fetus. This is one of the very few times I’ve been disappointed about a game’s lack of 3D support, and yet the aesthetic is fantastic even without it.

There’s a solid game under all of the flash, as well. The temptation to label Dyad as a “racing game” does it a disservice. Sure, speed plays an important role in many stages, but there’s more to the experience than just that one element. You’re never directly competing with anyone (there are no AI opponents in the game, and interaction with other players is limited to the online leaderboards), and not every stage is even about speed. Dyad introduces new mechanics and rules all the way through, keeping the experience fresh by never letting you learn everything.

The first few stages, for example, teach you about hooking enemies. That’s a skill you will utilize in just about every level. Hooking two similarly-coloured enemies in a row will provide you with an extra speed boost. Later levels introduce the “zip line” mechanic, which allows you to create a line between two enemies that you can then ride to give yourself a greater speed boost. Other mechanics that are gradually introduced include “lancing” (a burst of speed that allows you to smash through enemies), invincibility shields (which are exactly what you think they are), and new types of enemies that you can manipulate and use to your advantage in different ways.

At this point you might be thinking, "Well, gameplay variety is nice, but is it fun?"

It absolutely is. The speedier stages are positively exhilarating. Building up enough speed gives you a taste of what it must feel like to be a beam of light. The slower stages, with objectives like "survive for three minutes without hitting anything," don't feel quite as exciting, but they do infuse proceedings with a welcome extra element of strategy. The gameplay variety is something of a double-edged sword, since you probably won't enjoy every type of level equally, but I never found myself wishing that a level would hurry up and end so that I could move onto something different.

Each level feels like a tutorial at first. Performing well enough in a stage to achieve a three-star ranking will unlock that level’s corresponding trophy stage, where you’ll really put everything that you’ve learned to the test. For example, the “Danger” stage teaches you about bullet enemies, which will slow you down if you run into them. The standard stage tells you to hook as many enemy pairs as you can while hitting as few bullets as possible. The Danger trophy stage requires you to hook 25 pairs of enemies without ever hitting a single bullet enemy. Trophy stages are what separate the men from the boys.

Each stage also has an unlockable Remix mode that enables you to tweak the stage to suit your mood. This means adjusting sound or gameplay options with switches for things like tying the music to your current speed, or making the level loop infinitely. There are no leaderboards for Remix mode, of course, but you may want to just relax and play certain levels without worrying about how well you’re doing.

After achieving at least a one-star ranking on each of Dyad’s 26 tutorial levels (trophy and remix levels are optional), you’re rewarded with a bonus level, called “Eye of the Duck.” Eye of the Duck doesn’t really have any rules or penalties. There’s no HUD at all, in fact. All you have to do is play. Hook enemies, build up speed, and watch the initially simple-looking level get increasingly trippy as you progress. Without the threat of failure, you’re free to sit back and relax and completely lose yourself in the game’s style. You really need to experience it.

In fact, that sentiment applies to the whole game. Unless you’re prone to seizures, Dyad is a game you’re going to want to try for yourself. With its unique gameplay and beautiful visuals, Dyad is the type of experimental project that makes the indie scene so worthwhile. Give it a go. You won’t regret it.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (July 17, 2012)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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zippdementia posted July 23, 2012:

Oh hey, I thought I'd commented on this when I first read it. Sorry! I meant to tell you that this review got me extremely interested in the game and absorbed in watching youtube videos of it. I haven't picked it up, yet, due to my current busy schedule of playing Mega Man, but thanks for the recommendation!

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