We’ve seen multiple examples of developers experimenting with rhythm-based mechanics, and many of the results are both highly innovative and enjoyable. Dyad is another such title, despite its often overly chaotic presentation. There’s a lot going on, but you’re always sucked into the psychedelic on-screen action, continually reveling in the effects your actions have and sometimes wondering if you have a full grasp of those actions. Although brief, it’s a heady experience and one worth having.
As I said, there’s a lot going on here. The constant assault of color and effects can leave you a little dizzy, but it all seems to gel together nicely. The more you play, the more you start to appreciate the amount of detail infused in each and every second of gameplay. Things run smoothly, too, so there’s nothing jarring about the aforementioned assault; at times, it’s even relaxing. You just have to become accustomed to the speed and style. However, although there is a tremendous emphasis on the slick, futuristic visual presentation, it would be a serious mistake to classify this game as a mere visualizer.
The soundtrack is another high point, as it’s both diverse and effective. Further, because the music changes depending on how you progress through a stage, you have some control over the audio, which rises and falls with stellar balancing and pacing. The balancing is especially impressive because the designers had to blend important effects (those that gauge your performance) with the constant stream of music, and that’s no easy feat. In some ways, the sound on the whole is almost hypnotic because it all mixes so well together. I’m not the biggest fan of the soundtrack just because electronic beats all sound similar to me, but it works exceedingly well.
I’ve enjoyed quirky music/rhythm games in the past, like Amplitude and Rez, so I thought I knew what to expect. And while there’s some semblance of a “track” that you follow while helping to generate visual and audio accoutrements, Dyad stands on its own. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the game is the fact that it continues to change with each stage. That’s right, you’re greeted with slightly new mechanics in each level, so you’re in no danger of suffering from endless repetition, which results in boredom.
No, none of that. It starts by having you link geometric foes of the same color; you pair ‘em up and claim victory. Then you start skimming by enemies to build up energy, which can then be released to Lance through swarms of hapless opponents; basically, you dash forward at ridiculous speed and enemies just evaporate. As you move forward, you’ll start to grab helpful pick-ups, like bonuses that offer more speed and brief periods of invincibility. There are times when you’re sort of going, “okay, I’m not really sure what I’m doing,” but somehow, some way, it all just sort of…comes together. Tought to explain, but it does.
It’s not often that we have a game that changes things up with each successive stage. However, don’t think the entire gameplay mechanic changes, as the control scheme remains mostly the same and you’re still hurtling forward, performing a variety of colorful, music-driven tasks that dazzle the eye and satisfy the senses. Therefore, there’s a good sense of continuity despite the alteration of goals in each section, and you never feel overmatched or blindsided, either. Nothing new you learn is confusing or overly difficult, which makes the accessibility high.
The basic challenge may not be extreme, but if you want to take advantage of everything this game has to offer, you need to tackle the Trophy version of each level. You have to achieve a three-star rating on a standard level before you can unlock the Trophy version and trust me, the Trophy iteration will tax your capabilities. You will need to master a whole new set of tasks, including coming to a dead stop and finishing within a certain time limit. The only problem is that you can get super close and still lose, forcing you to start all over…and that’s just…vexing.
The other issue I have encompasses the entire production, and I hearken back to what I said earlier about a chaotic presentation. While things can flow and you do get better as time goes on, there are times when the onslaught of visual stimulation is borderline annoying. If you’re susceptible to light-generated headaches or you – God forbid – are susceptible to seizures, you really can’t play this game. On top of which, even for those who won’t have any health problems, the sheer torrent of graphical insanity is enough to impact the gameplay in negative way. I.e., “damn, totally missed that...too much sh** going on."
Overall, Dyad is a special game that is both unique and stylish. The developers (those capitals stand for Right Square Bracket Left Square Bracket Games) do a great job of blending slick music with a surprisingly accessible (albeit sometimes out of control) gameplay mechanic. You really start to feel like you’re approaching some sort of altered state if you play too much, which I suppose can be deemed good or bad. Personally, I really enjoyed the detail, genuine effort, fluidity, and originality of this title, even if it doesn’t quite have the depth I’d normally like. Just be careful…if you start seeing this in your dreams, I say take a break.
The Good: Fantastic visual presentation. Solid sound effects and a super stylish soundtrack. New goals in each stage keep things fresh. Blending and pacing is fantastic. Original and addictive.
The Bad: Chaotic presentation can be confusing. Visual onslaught might overload the senses. Trophy challenges seem a little unforgiving.
The Ugly: “I swear I don’t take drugs…wait, maybe this is a drug.”
8/7/2012 Ben Dutka