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Dyad Review (PSN)

by GaryTun

There’s a certain stigma that surrounds games that use music in tandem with psychedelic visuals, That’s because they’re often assumed to be the purview of a section of society who feel the need to prefix every sentence with the words “wow” and “trippy”, whilst spending their lives eating Cheese & Onion crisps at three am. Maybe now is the time to change that opinion, with the release of Dyad for the PlayStation Network.

Dyad is best described as a psychedelic journey with reactive musical accompaniment. That in itself sounds like a cliché ripped straight from the above point of view, but it sums the game up perfectly.

The essence of Dyad is momentum; every action is designed to propel the player along a neon-lit cylindrical space, with the ability to move around top to bottom, left to right across twenty seven different levels. On initial appearances it will remind many of Jeff Minter’s Space Giraffe, which is no bad thing since Dyad seems to share a deeper modus operandi in terms of gameplay.

The drip feed of game mechanics is perfectly pitched, allowing the player enough space to get to grips with new information. They’ll soon learn to hook enemies with a press of a button, and matching two of a similar colour propels the player forward. Once this is mastered, learning to graze and lance them is introduced. The former is achieved by selecting an enemy and, as they unfurl, shifting the player to the side and thus, lightly grazing. This helps fill the lance meter which gives a massive boost forward, eliminating enemies along the way.

Juggling these mechanics soon becomes second nature, as the player grazes, hooks and speeds along the psychedelic cylinder, music pumping in the background, reacting to the on-screen action. The visuals that accompany Dyad are stellar, paying homage to the much-heralded tunnel light show at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as the aforementioned Space Giraffe. It feels in place with the general vibe, eliciting a feeling of euphoria. Dyad has a rhythm, a purpose to the levels which makes it a real “zone” game, where the player gets a feel for the mechanics and used to what’s being asked of them, committing moves and actions to muscle memory, using musical cues when appropriate and trancing out in the process.

While there is a certain lysergic influence permeating throughout the game, the simple fact of the matter is that Dyad is a very good game which happens to take its influences from many different sources, bringing them together to create this unique experience. It feels like it wants you to have fun, while maintaining a focus that is laser sharp.

The sonic accompaniment to Dyad is pitch perfect, a mixture of electronica that appears to draw influences from many luminaries of the genre. Old school (should that be skool?) Drum n’ Bass beats mix effortlessly with more subtle sounds, bringing to mind Four Tet , Global Communications or Squarepusher. It wouldn’t feel out of place seeing Dyad being used for visual accompaniment in a club environment.

Like the rest of the game, Dyad’s attention to detail doesn’t end with the meticulous gameplay mechanics. As with Achievements, the most interesting Trophies are the ones that feel well earned and this is most definitely the case here. The player can cruise through the game, completing the initial game mode with the minimum effort to unlock the next area on the list, but by going the extra mile and acquiring three stars they unlock the ability to earn a Trophy.

These are based on the levels just cleared in game mode, but usually have a twist connected to it. For example, in The Light Spectrum, the goal is to hook as many Enemy Pairs as possible before their lives run out. To earn the Trophy, the goal is forty before all lives are extinguished, and while many will decry this as artificially lengthening the game, they actually expand the player’s skill, eking out extra from them in an attempt to go further, faster, harder. Sure there’s the incentive of a trophy, but once scores are compared on the leaderboards, true competition starts to come out, adding another layer onto the already strong competitive element. Fists will be shaken and the smug grins of satisfaction swapped back and forth.

If the competition proves too fierce, there is the sublime remix mode which allows the player to take any given level and mess around. Drum patterns and time limits disabled, the experience is channelled into a more chilled out direction. Although some of the variables couldn’t be described as relaxing, they can provoke just as strong a reaction as the games more traditional levels.

To play Dyad is to experience a game bursting with care, attention and a whole lot of love but don’t mistake it for some hippy trippy nonsense as there’s a competitive streak evident throughout that requires first patience to learn then time to master. Hours evaporate and not a single care will be given, such are the delights on offer.

Anyone with access to the PlayStation Network should buy Dyad, it’s just that simple.