ReviewsReview: Dead Dust

Review: Dead Dust

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The Wild West is a lawless and fearful place. Only the toughest survive, and money and guns do all the talking for you. This gritty landscape has formed the backbone of many films, TV shows, and games. So, it never surprises me when a developer uses it for their project. Dead Dust is a pixelated rogue-like twin-stick shooter that is as addictive as it is frustrating.

Developed by HugePixel and published by ChiliDog Interactive, this 2D retro Western twin-stick shooter will test your reactions, luck, and patience. You must explore many levels, killing each bandit you encounter, and collecting all the loot you find. It follows a simple concept, but its difficulty is anything but easy.

Dead Dust follows a loose story.

You are a bounty hunter named Shlango. You receive a telegram explaining that a highly influential man’s daughter has been kidnapped. Your journey begins, and you are asked to cross the perilous deserts to rescue her and bring her safely home. This is too dangerous a job to be undertaken alone. Luckily, Shlango has a group of trusted friends who will aid him throughout his quest.

This is Dead Dust in a nutshell. The story has little impact on the gameplay and only serves to set the scene. This didn’t bother me too much, as I was more concerned with trying to stay alive. HugePixel has created a game that will test your resolve and will kill you repeatedly. I know this brutal approach isn’t for everyone, but I found it to be oddly addictive. Between the screams of rage, cold stares at my controller, and repeated swear words, I kept returning to play.

Your team of heroes.

Grab the loot and kill everything in sight.

Money makes the world go round, and fortunately, there is no shortage of loot. Barrels can be destroyed, and bandits and Indians drop coins for you to collect. Gather everything you find as you’ll need it to purchase goods from the local barkeep. These conveniently placed taverns sell weapons, first aid, and ammo. If you fail to use them, you reduce your chances of victory greatly. So don’t miss the opportunity when it arises.

Cash isn’t the only item you’ll find lying around. Spears, hatchets, and guns can be picked up and wielded. Each of the melee weapons can be thrown with deadly force, and they are strangely more powerful than any bullet you fire. The overpowered tools were brilliant to use. Find your enemy and chuck it in their direction, if it hits them, they won’t get up! I loved the brutality of it all and spent my time lobbing axes and spears like a hero possessed.

Rogue-like element makes it unfairly difficult. 

Your band of heroes all work independently. There is no pooling of funds, nor do they share weapons. If one dies, then they are out of the adventure for good. Death was a bitter pill to swallow, especially when you had nearly cleared the stage and had bags of loot. You take your last breath, fall to the ground, and all your progress is wiped. You select another hero, spawn randomly, and start your quest again. It’s a Western version of Groundhog Day, but with more bloodshed, and a lot less comedy. 

I cursed the difficulty of the rogue-like genre! It does wonders at teaching you to be patient, but it’s also unfairly harsh. I know the Wild West is supposed to be deadly, but this takes it to a new level. As much as I struggled with the challenge, it worked perfectly with the simplicity of the gameplay. If the developers had taken a different approach, it would have been too easy. The game simply comprises some exploration and lots of killing, so it was refreshing that a minor tactical approach had to be considered.

Loot, blood and a bar.

A warm, pixelated world.

The pixelated approach used in Dead Dust shows clear influences from the 80s arcade era. The bird’s-eye perspective makes it easy to observe the action. But a lack of camera rotation restricts your field of view. I found this to be a poor choice from HugePixel, as it prevents you from looking ahead and creating a plan. However, what I liked was the warm yet vibrant tones, the design of each level, and the pixelated appearance of the sprites. The game lacks a polished finish, but it matters not. It contains enough detail to make objects easily identifiable, and the game was pleasant to look at.

The audio is as gritty as the gameplay. An aggressive original soundtrack screams; danger, excitement and trouble. If you close your eyes, the music is instantly identifiable as associated with the Wild West, and it transports you to this hot dust bowl immediately. The sound effects are equally good. Booming explosions, rasping gunfire, and the twang of melee weapons being thrown. It was glorious to experience.

Neither element is overly complicated, or high-end. But both work fantastically well together to help drive the atmosphere of the story.

The most dangerous train ride ever!

Twin-Stick Shooters are not usually my friend. 

I’m usually very vocal about my dislike of twin-stick shooters, mainly because I’m terrible with the controls. Yet, somehow I found Dead Dust to be extremely easy to play. The aiming was responsive and smooth, using items and picking up objects was straightforward, it made a pleasant change. Also, because of its basic concept, I picked up the fundamentals almost immediately, its high level of accessibility means that this can be attempted by players of all skill sets.

Rogue-like games have a sadomasochistic draw and will keep you playing forever. They enrage you, make you want to quit, but yet, you want just one more try. Every part of this got under my skin, and though I wanted to put it down, I couldn’t. At the time of writing the review, there was no visibility of the achievement list. I’m going to guess that it’ll be a standard affair and will add a layer of replay value for completionists.

Dead Dust brings the Wild West to your living room.

Adventuring into the Wild West is a dangerous job for any man or women, but Dead Dust brings this reality to your living room. Nicely presented and easy to play, this is a title that I recommend you try. A copy can be purchased here! Can you and your team of heroes save the girl? Kill everyone, explore each level, and ride your horses until you bring her home safely. 

SUMMARY

The Wild West is a dangerous place, Dead Dust replicates this brilliantly with its Rogue-like gameplay. Death is a certainty, as is rage quitting! Collect every piece of loot, kill everyone, and save the girl.

+ Warm tones and nice pixelated graphics.
+ Recognisably Wild West audio.
+ Easy to pick up and play.
+ Addictive gameplay.
+ Lots of replay value.
- No online play.
- It may be too tough for some.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.
Daniel Waite
Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I've now found a new home to write my reviews, and get my opinion out to the masses. Still the lead admin for Xboxseriesfans on Facebook and Instagram. I love the gaming world, and writing about it. I can be contacted at [email protected] for gaming reviews.

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