Mechanically Beautiful: Dust: An Elysian Tail

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Welcome to Mechanically Beautiful,  where we look into the widely debated topic, “Are Video Games Art?” I am here to say that yes, I do believe video games are a form of art and I’m going to give you readers amazing examples of why I believe this. If you are not a believer of this idea, then maybe these articles will change your mind. But even if they don’t, you will get a chance to hear about and maybe look into some beautiful games in the industry. Today we look at the indie action platformer created by Humble Hearts LLC “Dust: An Elysian Tail.”

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Before getting into it, I would just like to applaud Dean Dodrill, as he created this entire amazing game all by himself and he poured his soul into it. It really show that with enough hard work you can pull off some crazy stuff.

Let’s talk about the game.

Dust: An Elysian Tail” has you playing as Dust, a young man who has lost his memory and finds himself in the companionship of the talking sword Ahrah and a small creature known as a Nimbat named Fidget. The game takes place in the fictional world Falana which is inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. Dust himself seems to be some kind of raccoon-like person, although none of the characters really bare an exact resemblance to any specific animals. For the work of one man, this game is a real mind blower with incredibly smooth animation and particle effects, a great use of vibrant colors, and a highly stylized look to the entire game.

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Right when you load the game up you can see the very clean and specific drawing style this guy created. Dust himself is covered in very bright blues and grays that really make him stand out. All of the characters have nicely chosen color palettes and have a very vibrant and alive feel to them. The game is oozing with bright pleasant coloration that gives you a very uplifted feel while you playing. The irony to it is that things going on in the game are pretty bleak despite the fact the game looks like a happy cartoon. I wouldn’t say the style is really anime, although it takes inspiration from there but I would say that it is very cartoon based. It has a very kid-like feel but the subject matter that isn’t totally kid based. You feel kind of fuzzy and happy while playing and then you feel even better when you juggle enemies in the air for a good ten minutes with some beautiful battle animations.

I have no idea what technique this guy used to make these animation, I just assume he is a wizard because for a 2-D they have got to be some of the best animation I have ever seen. As someone who is an animation major I really love when people put some serious effort in the look of animations. The basic combo you start off with is a smooth three hit swing that slides you forward just a bit. The animation is quick and flawless and he even added a little after stream affect to give the swings a sense of movement and speed. When you use the dust storm attack, Dust whirls his blade in front of him creating a huge swirling gust in front of you that shreds enemies apart. With a 2-D, you need to make sure things don’t get too insane so that you can still your character on screen; this often means you need to make the animation lesser, but Dust does not care for this rule.

Even with the limited space you get, the attacks in “Dust: An Elysian Tail” still feel very powerful and that is important in an action game like this. If you don’t feel powerful, it’s kind of lame to swing your weapon, and then you get bored. Another point has to also be given to the particle effects. From things as simple as using health items and firing of magical projectiles, every little effect has detail. When you go to a save point, there is a big blue beam of light that shoots up from where you’re standing and elegantly fades away in just the right span of time. When you level up, a blast of white light strikes you and flashes on the screen and boy, does that feel powerful. It actually surprises me sometimes when I’m not paying attention. My favorite effect is when you combine your dust storm attack with the little energy projectiles Fidget fires. When they hit your sword, the particles spread out and great a huge swirling of projectiles all over the screen that send enemies flying around in all directions. It looks like a bunch of fireflies explode out of your sword and start attacking your foes. It is very funny to use. A final comment should also be given to the environments.

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While the characters and enemies have a very solid and saturated color to them, the environments are different. While the characters look very much like digital drawings, the background environments seem to be more painted. The shading and blending of color on these environments looks almost like it was done with oil paint. Knowing what I do about digital drawing, I assume this effect was created through using the airbrush tool and by making the outlines less hard edged. Regardless, it is a very good technique and it makes it very easy to distinguish your character from the backdrop which is important in a gameplay sense. Even something boring like an underground cave managed to be interesting by having strange glowing fauna and fungus in these areas. Dean has a good attention to detail and artistic sense for sure.

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Dust: An Elysian Tailis one of those indie game that can even blow triple A titles out of the water. For a job done by one guy, it looks and plays better than you would believe until you try it. The guy put his soul into making the game great and into making it fantastically beautiful. It a great game that I would recommend to so any fans of the action platformer genre and people who appreciated some color and art in there games.