Published on June 10th, 2017 | by Ben Rueter0
Some of my favorite movement based puzzle games growing up were Super Monkey Ball and Marble Blast Ultra. Both games are a test of maneuverability, mastering gravity and space. In a similar vein, Dystoria is reminiscent of the enjoyment I remember trying to tackle grueling courses in Marble Blast Ultra, but with a neon-lite blaster.
It’s been awhile since I played a game like Dystoria and Tri-Coastal Games does a remarkable job with the level design. Levels expand from multi-level stages to surfaces the require you to wrap your ship around, inside and out of M.C. Escher-like platforms. What sets Dystoria apart from Super Monkey Ball is that you are tied to the surfaces. Which means, going from point A to B is not possible via hopping across the board, but rather discovering how to transverse all surfaces in a 3D space while shooting and dodging enemies is at its core what Dystoria excels at.
You start the game after being abducted and placed inside a room with a computer. At the computer, you are allowed to read emails, customize your vessel and buy upgrades. This is also where you will access levels. This area acts more as a staging area.
Once you take your customized vessel into a stage, you will soon learn what’s up is down and what’s down is up becomes common ground.
Stages are built on sets of interconnected blocks. The blocks create a Tetris-esque mazes that you will move through and over. Some stages have lifts transporting you to nearby areas while other portals will transport you across the stage to a new floating designs to slide over.
The pause screen displays a pulled out version of the stage and the location of the player, which becomes very useful. It’s easy to get lost, but I found that part of the challenge. Learning to acclimate myself to the same puzzle, but just from a new perspective, became a fun test to unpack.
Unfortunately, the movement along edges is a bit jarring. The sharp edges create quick camera movements so it can be easy to get lost especially in a blaster battle.
Players will be tasked with collecting Portal Orbs that, once a certain amount is collected, it will open the exit portal. Once your ship passes through that portal the stage ends and you move on. Dystoria also includes boss battles, which are not nearly as interesting as the standard levels simply because it turns the game into this topsy-turvy action shooter. Dystoria is at it’s best when it is asking the player how to transverse an area rather than putting the focus on disposing enemies.
It’s no doubt that TRON and 1980s synths play a big role in the game’s vibe. It’s a style that may be getting tired in games and Dystoria doesn’t do much with the look. Neon lights and dark grids are what you will be looking at for most of the game. The soundtrack fits the mood and while I won’t be rushing to Bandcamp to buy the soundtrack, it works as enjoyable background music. I’m thankful the tunes don’t become repetitive especially in a game where you may find yourself staring at the screen just so you can mentally plan out your path.
Tri-Coastal Games is onto something neat. Stage design is a challenge and a pleasure to transverse. Yet, it’s a jarring challenge at times. Quick movements along edges left me feeling disoriented. In a game that’s about understanding the space around you, being thrown off unintentionally makes for frustrating moments. The sudden perspective shifts alongs edges is not something I got used to, however, Dystoria is a game that I would like to see the edges smoothed out–figuratively and literally.