PS3 review: Dyad

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Hyperpsychedelic bioluminolectric technomelodica

Dyad’s difficult to pin down. Up front it’s very centered around the player’s visual and aural experience, pulsating neon fractals perfectly complementing its adaptive electronic music. Dyad’s maximalist design is likely to baffle anyone walking by, admiring the experience even as they wonder what exactly is being played.

Picking up the controller strips away the blinding layers. Dyad may look for all the world like an experiential art game, but there’s a surprising core of gaminess underneath, taking its cues less from Rez than from tunnel shooters like Tempest and Space Giraffe.

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Eyes melt; minds meld.

Dyad starts out simply enough, introducing players to its central conceit of hooking onto same-colored pairs of enemies in order to whip through levels as quickly as possible. Subsequent levels tweak the design a bit, adding new enemies, abilities, and goals. One level’s a sprint to the finish, while the next focuses on hooking a certain amount of enemies within a time limit. Each new level feels comfortably different.

By the end you’re playing a much more nuanced game than you started with. Hooking pairs of enemies creates zip lines, allowing for ever-increasing speed as players ride these impromptu racing lines. Hooked enemies emit auras that charge a lancing attack when sped through, allowing players to warp through and consume enemies in their path. Danger mounts as the play field moves ever faster and out of control.

And the game’s sense of style really is remarkable. The tunnels of glowing light feel at once biological and technological. It’s not difficult to imagine Dyad as cyberpunk fantasy, hackers shooting rapidly from node to node in search of endless obscure information. But there’s a distinctly human aspect to the beginning of each level, flashing lights evocative of sunshine playing on the iris of an eye, married to the ever-primal imagery of a lighted tunnel with uncertainty at its end.

Dyad’s climax, though, is one of the most stunning final sequences I’ve played in any game. There’s a Kubrickian resonance to it, an endlessness. It’s both mind-numbing and sense-sharpening, overlong and far too short. It’s really, really bold game design, and there’s nothing else quite like it.

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Far too fast is never fast enough.

I do have one major gripe with Dyad. I wanted more time with the game after it ended, so I played the game’s trophy challenge levels — but they’re just way too damned hard.

I know, I know. They’re challenges. They should be challenging: that’s kinda the point. But Dyad’s are massively, frustratingly difficult. I finished the first two. The next one I tried probably forty times, to no avail. I finished the main game without too much trouble, but man, those challenges. They’re brutal.

Oh well. Dyad’s a great game. Try it out. Just don’t worry about the trophy challenges unless you’re totally better than me. They’re for master gamers only.

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2 Responses to “PS3 review: Dyad”

  1. Strawberry Says:

    I’ve never heard of Dyad before. The screenshots are pretty, but I get this feeling that I wouldn’t be able to handle the game, and would probably get a headache or something.

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