Dyad is the proof that the video games industry is amazing as a medium for entertainment. Independent developers (in this case, Shawn McGrath) making people step out of their comfort zones to experience something other than the typical platformer or run-and-gun is one of the many things I love about this industry. Currently exclusive on the PlayStation 3 and releasing today, Dyad is an assault on your senses and your sensibilities.
The games mechanics are simple enough. You are a …er, dyad, I guess – imagine sputnik if it had waggily antennae behind it instead of straight metal rods. You travel down the tunnel “hooking” pairs of mines or balls of light to boost your speed. At the same time, hooking a mine also triggers a ring to pass through to power up your lance. Activating your lance will increase your speed as well as allow you to drive through the mines for extra boosting capabilities. These and other maneuvers will help as you navigate through the 27 levels – each of which has its own requirements and goals. In some levels you have to race forward as fast as you can, in others you have to last as long as possible, and in others you have to meet a certain criteria before you run out of track.
Dyad is a visually stunning game. The bursts of color traveling down the tunnel are hypnotic. But just as quickly as it stimulates the senses, it devolves into meaningless visual and auditory noise. One of the aspects the game does well is introducing new concepts and reinforcing those skills with the player. Then, once you complete a level with at least one star, you may use the remix mode for the level to tailor your experience to your liking.
Now, some writers will try to convince you that Dyad is a finely-tuned “twitch” game – namely that you can properly succeed if you simply slip into a subconscious “zone” to play the game on instinct – but I do not believe the play experience is as scientific as that. A perfect example is my experience with the level “I Really Miss Jack.” The concept of the level is to last as long as you can (time-wise) before you lose all your lives. You lose a life when you run into an enemy. You can combat this by gaining extra lives every time you lance X number of enemies or become invincible for a short time and plow through the enemies to extend your invincibility. The catch is the level becomes increasingly faster the longer you live and activating your lance also increases the speed. Keeping all this in mind, I began playing the level. To get one star and move on, I needed to last three minutes. After about a dozen attempts, I finally hit 2:59.38. Being as frustrated as I was, I put the controller down to take a break. After returning, I had a few more poor showings, but I finally hit it big and placed 8th on the leaderboards. I didn’t get into the zone or perform some miracle. I muted the damn noise and played in silence, and once I reached the 4-minute mark, it was going so fast I basically just systematically rocked the dyad left and right and mashed the ‘X’ button for the next minute and a half. I ended up getting 8th not because of incredible skill, but because I mindlessly pressed the left and right buttons in pattern that agreed with the game.
Overall, Dyad is a niche title that will appeal to a very select audience. Personally, this game wasn’t for me: seemingly little to do with skill, no storyline and it was not visually or aurally appealing. The game’s concepts and controls are not complex, but using those tools to accomplish the tasks can, at times, be extremely demanding. There is also trophy support, but those levels are so brutal, I never once came close to succeeding – even after many attempts. I fully support the independent development community and love seeing games like Dyad out on the PSN, but this game wasn’t for me.
If Dyad looks like an experience you would enjoy, check it out on the PSN now for $14.99.