Review: Dyad (PSN)
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1337 MB)
Release Date: July 17, 2012
Publisher: Right Square Bracket Left Square Bracket Games
Developer: Shawn McGrath
Original MSRP: $14.99 / $11.99 PlayStation Plus
ESRB Rating: E
Dyad is exclusive to the PlayStation Network.
If you’ve been keeping up with PSN news, you know that there are a couple of unique and interesting facts about Dyad. First off, it has been developed by basically one person, Shawn McGrath who has been featured on our podcast. Secondly, it is difficult to explain in words exactly what this game is and how it works. Thankfully, there will soon be a downloadable demo for Dyad and it will provide more than enough insight for the decision making process. Give it a shot; you will most likely be willing to part with a few extra bucks to experience the originality of this all-senses immersing Indie game.
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 277 of the podcast.
Click here to listen to Episode 256 of the PS Nation podcast which features an interview with Dyad developer Shawn McGrath.
Your character model consists of a few wispy strands of colorful, intertwining matter. Different levels demand varying objectives but you will usually find yourself traveling down a weaving tube littered with bullets (items that you have to dodge) and enemies (balls of colored light that you have to “hook” onto). A major part of the gameplay is dedicated to hooking enemy pairs by color. If you happen to be in a level with two different enemy colors, a pairing is only achieved when the same colored enemy is hooked with two consecutive hooks. For example, one of the earlier levels has both purple and yellow enemies. You would have to either hook two yellow or two purple enemies in a row to get a pair. Hooking a yellow enemy followed by a purple enemy or vice-versa will result in a reset and you will not gain a pair. After making a pair, you are free to grab either color. There is a helpful indication of the color you are working on in a centralized location on the screen. This helps you stay on track, providing a quick visual reference to guide you to the next enemy. It definitely comes in handy, as Dyad can become insanely fast once you get the hang of it.
Check out this gameplay video from the PS Nation Podcast co-host Glenn for a better understanding of how the game works.
At start up, you will notice that there are many sections of the game with only the first being available until all objective levels in that section are complete. After choosing a section, you will notice that each area has three levels to it. The first is the objective level, the second is the trophy level, and the third is the remix level. The objective levels have a three star ranking system to them with only one star necessary to advance. Getting a one star ranking is fairly easy but achieving two or three stars can definitely push your limits and test your patience. The trophy levels reward just that: a trophy. These have a single objective to complete and they become very tough. When you finally do beat one after many attempts, you feel accomplished and satisfied. That trophy is actually earned and isn’t a surprise when it pops up. Dyad manages to incorporate game completion with trophy hunting tastefully, in a way that we do not see with many other games. The remix levels present the player with a slew of options with which to tweak the audio and visual components of the level. Infinite play is always an option and this is sort of the ‘just for fun’ section of the game.
Another component of Dyad that is executed very well is the ramping up of the difficulty. The reason for each level being locked until the previous level is completed becomes so very clear. You are learning as you go without ever experiencing a tutorial. You will only be hooking enemies in the early levels, dodging debris midway through the game, and hooking different colored enemy pairs while dodging debris and building energy by grazing enemies toward the end. The game builds on itself, naturally bringing the player to a point where each level, regardless of difficulty, becomes perfectly accessible. In the later levels, it is extremely satisfying to watch yourself manage the on-screen mayhem, realizing that you were fumbling around and playing very slowly just a few hours prior. Someone walking into the room may not even understand how you are keeping track of what you’re doing until they pick it up themselves.
The controls are very fluid, simplistic, and fit the overall madness of the game respectively. The player is essentially rotating the tube, stopping when he/she notices that their target is highlighted. Dyad forces you to make split second decisions over and over, just milliseconds apart from each other. Gameplay is balanced by the speed boost achieved each and every time an enemy pair is hooked.
Eye-melting, seizure-inducing, and brain-corrupting are just some of the hyphenated adjective phrases that have been used to describe the visuals in Dyad. The colors are so bright and beautiful, enhancing the game at every twist of the tube and impressing the player with every speed boost. The remix levels can really offer a greater appreciation for the amount of layers, time, and detail put into the visual capacity of the game. No matter how fast you are able to get going, the game and graphics remain unbelievably smooth with no slow-down, no graphical breaks, and never even a hiccup of a stall. Visuals represent one of the components that Dyad prides itself on and rightfully so. Many other games will not provide the venue for this type of strangely foreign yet completely addictive world.
For me, audio has never been a big factor in a game unless of course the game is of the music or rhythm genre. Dyad proves that sound isn’t just for Rock Band and Guitar Hero and incorporates a tantalizing audio functionality that really adds to the game. The sound in Dyad is the only portion that developer Shawn McGrath had some help with, showing the importance of the audio. Music and effects will change depending on what the player is doing and it is done so well. The zany visuals can only be matched by the loopy sound, offering such an appropriate coupling of the two. It is very rare that I experience something in a game that I know I will never forget. One of the early trophy levels in Dyad clears the colors from all the enemies and asks the player to hook enemy pairs based solely on the sounds they make. I have never experienced a part of a game that has demanded such complete focus, simultaneously from three of my senses.
Dyad incorporates the unlimited fun that a score chasing/leaderboard ranking component of a game can provide. There are over 50 different leaderboards, one for every objective and trophy level. You are ranked immediately upon successful completion of a level, fostering an environment to ‘retry’ over and over until you are satisfied with your performance. You do not have to exit or search to find your place as your rank is given to you right on the level completion screen. Score chasing is definitely encouraged by the game itself as it identifies a disconnection to the PSN and asks you to connect to compare results with both strangers and friends.
Dyad is a visually appealing game with an attractive soundtrack that provides unique gameplay. It does not limit itself to fit into one genre or category, expressing freedom of gaming and illustrating the reasons why we love Indies, the pub fund, and the PSN overall. I commend Dyad for showcasing the fortitude to step outside of the box and bring us a fresh take on gaming while challenging players to realize the full potential of their skill. Once the objective and trophy levels are complete, the score chasing and leaderboards serve to increase longevity and add re-play value. Dyad will be one of those games that lives on your PS3, is booted up to show friends, and remains active on your ‘now playing’ list as you hone your skills and make it up the ranks.