Games like Dyad are hard to describe accurately without simply seeing it for yourself, and even then, it’s still confusing at first glance. It can be compared to a game like Rez, but even that comparison doesn’t do it justice. Dyad is one of those games that if someone walked in on you playing it, they’d think you were in a trance, staring at a mesmerizing kaleidoscope, and mashing a button on a controller in front of you. Calling this game a psychedelic racing/puzzler/arcade/music/shooter game certainly doesn’t make things anymore lucid, either. It may even sound like this game is trying to be too many things, which often causes a game to fail. Dyad does not fail, but actually succeeds greatly– it manages to incorporate a little bit of everything, making it a unique experience.
At its core gameplay, Dyad involves controlling an essence-like avatar that speeds down a trippy, colorful tunnel to complete different objectives for the level. Some examples are: finish the level within the time frame, hook twenty enemies, or use zip lines with lancing to reach the fastest possible speed. The lingo makes it sound confusing, but it really isn’t. Most of the time, you’ll hook two enemies together, giving a small boost of speed. Gracing an enemy involves getting close to one without actually touching it. This rewards you with points that fill up a bar, and when it’s full, you can manually boost even faster. Normally, the level objectives are all about speed, but not always. Some levels’ objectives involve hooking a certain amount of same colored enemies in pairs to fulfill a desired quota. Others are literally just go as far as you can with no time limit.
The game sounds and looks confusing, but it really isn’t. Dyad does an amazing job of slowly explaining each aspect of the game for you to grasp the concept easily. It’s pacing is perfect; the early levels are nice and simple in order to give you confidence, while the later levels, which use the same techniques that you learned earlier (with a small twist), still manage to take you through the ringer. After each level, you are given a rank out of three stars (it only takes one star to unlock the next level). Technically, this makes beating the game easy, but that isn’t the end of Dyad. Once you beat a level, you have the ability to play it again, but the level is a remixed version in which you can tweak some settings. You can invert controls, wash out the graphics, have infinite play, and a couple other options. It gives the game a little more depth and allows you to enjoy each track more than once. However, the real goal of Dyad isn’t to simply beat a level, but to ace the level with three stars and unlock the trophy levels.
This is when things get difficult. The trophy levels are the true reason for purchasing this game, since they are the ones you’ll spend hours on. They are nauseatingly difficult, causing you to go bald from pulling your hair out, but at the same time, they are incredibly addictive. The objectives are rather interesting, which adds another small twist to the game play. One example of a trophy objective is to pair twenty-two enemies, while only being able to press the button fifty times. It sounds easy enough, but the track isn’t endless, so you only have a limited amount of enemies to hook. Another trophy level also involves hooking twenty enemies, but the twist is that they’re all the same color, meaning that you have to listen to the music to pair the correct ones. This adds another level of depth to the gameplay, and since the missions are challenging, they extend the overall time you’ll spend on this game. It may sound laughable to spend over an hour trying to complete the same track over and over (which only takes forty-five seconds to complete, or rather, fail), but what keeps the game fun and interesting is the amazing gameplay.
Flying down a rainbow colored tube, dodging enemies, and simultaneously hooking other enemies in pairs to increase speed is more than just fun: it’s a riot. The gameplay doesn’t feel old or boring, even when playing the same tracks repeatedly. Most importantly, when you fail, you don’t feel like the game is cheating you. When you fail (and you will), you know it’s your fault: the level may be hard, but it’s doable. You’ll tell yourself, “Maybe just one more go and I’ll pass it”, then glance at the clock and a couple of hours have gone by.
The soundtrack in Dyad doesn’t disappoint; the music is completely in sync with the game play. Every hook or boost causes a reaction in the music, creating an immersive feel for the game. The faster you go, the louder and quicker the music plays. Likewise, if you are going slow, the music’s pace dawdles and feels empty to match. The music eggs you on– when it slows down, you feel pressured to pick up the pace, making you try harder. You can tell how fast you’re going by the music alone, which helps, since your eyes will be more than busy.
There is only one thing stopping this game from being completely perfect. Unless you’re a completionist, this game doesn’t offer much value to you. Since all the levels can technically be beaten with one star, it is easy to complete every track quickly, making the game incredibly short. The lasting appeal comes from attempting to gain three stars for each level in order to unlock the trophy levels. Getting three stars and completing the trophy levels is more than just challenging, it will take lots of focus to even come close. For this reason, unless you’re looking to spend hours repeating the same challenging levels, you won’t find lasting enjoyment in this psychedelic game and will probably grow bored from playing the same levels multiple times.
Dyad is one of those downloadable games that is a must-have. It’s a simple premise with huge appeal that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do– bring new style to the ever repetitive cycle of video games. You’ll forget to blink because your eyes are being bombarded with a plethora of colors swirling around, disrupting your focus. Then, when you are so close to getting that third star or trophy, something goes wrong and you fail. With an exasperated groan and a flimsy promise to never try again, you’ll soon find yourself being drawn back to Dyad as if it’s an addiction. With catchy gameplay, wonderful visuals, upbeat charismatic music, and a welcoming challenge, Dyad digs its hooks in and you won’t be able to get away.
Final Verdict: For only $15, this PSN exclusive is worth every dollar. It’s challenging and will test even the best gamers, but it’s extremely rewarding.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Dyad developed by ][ (Right Square Bracket Left Square Bracket) and published by ][ (Right Square Bracket Left Square Bracket)