Today’s review is about Dusk ($19.99, David Szymanski, New Blood Games) for the Nintendo Switch. The first game in which, and I’m not embarrassed to say this, that I freaking forgot that I was writing a review about because I was so busy playing the game! “Game beaten? Time to play it again on the next difficulty!” Woooo doggy I love me some satanic cultist throwback FPS’s! Let’s lock and load, player!
Don’t Trust Your Eyes.-Battle through an onslaught of mystical backwater cultists, possessed militants & even darker forces as you attempt to discover just what lurks beneath the Earth in this retro FPS.
Three distinct campaign episodes await you, hand-crafted from straight outta the ’90s! Featuring a vast arsenal of killer weaponry including sickles, swords, crossbows, rifles, dual-wielded and double barreled shotguns and incredibly necessary grenade and rocket launchers. DUSK brings unapologetic retro action from start to finish.
In addition to the main campaign, DUSK also features an Endless Survival Mode, putting you front and center against wave after wave of merciless enemies.
But that’s not all! The “cult” classic shooter explodes onto Nintendo Switch™ at 60 frames per second with new features such as a weapon wheel, HD rumble, gyro aiming, tons of UI and UX improvements plus a new endless level for the most robust DUSK experience yet – on your couch or on the go!
- Graphics. Yes, this game does indeed have “graphics”. You youngins would think this game looks trash, but I beg to differ. This game looks like something that people older than you but not older than me would remember from our youth. Gaming in the 90’s caused us whiplash. It started with beautiful 2D sprites with scrolling parallax backgrounds. It ended up with polygon-infested, tree shaped characters against wiggling walls. Not only did our PS1 walls wiggle, but they were simply a picture of a texture repeating. The same goes for PC and Saturn.The world already has beautiful 2D sprites again, so why would we want that hilarious, pointy 3D back? Why would we want the whiplash? I think the answer is because some of the most fun games from that era were all 3D games in 3D worlds. They didn’t have to look good back then, because we were blown away by the change.
Dusk gives us even more whiplash by not only sending us forcefully back in time but gives us even more graphical options. You’ll first find that there are options for your on-screen crosshairs. You’ll love the options that are handy if you don’t like the default one. I didn’t bother with them any more than just looking them once over.
There were color palette options to let you manipulate how you wanted it to look. This is where I spent most of my time tweaking the look. Polygons don’t bother me, but games being too dark do. It’s already a battery killer having to turn up the brightness outdoors. So I changed it to a palette with the lightest colors, enabling me to see much better in the sunlight.
Dusk’s advanced options take things further than that. If your nostalgia wasn’t PS1 games, David’s got you covered. You can find fuzziness options. Basically, it multiplies the pixel to polygon intensity. So if instead, you played Alone in the Dark for Game Boy Color, you’ll be right at home here. I don’t want to spoil all of the different options because they will bring a smile to your face as they did to mine. When scrolling, I kept reading the names and seeing the effect applied and I couldn’t stop cheesing.
There are other options that I found interesting, but I never bothered with. If you’re new to these kind of games, you might find distractions within them. Dusk sets out to make it feel right to you. Old games used to bounce your visuals up and down a few pixels as you moved. This was to simulate a person when they’re run But for a video game, you may not dig it and here you can tweak it. The same with the depth of your first-person view. This is done by letting you choose the size of the gun that you see on screen is.
I want to finish out this section by really noting that this game isn’t all about nostalgia. Modern gaming can really look however it wants to and some graphical choices in the gaming space are intentionally bad. Most of the time, worse than Dusk. Nowadays everything is so stylized unless it’s actually broken. By that, I simply mean like jagged edges or textures popping in, etc.
In the instance of Dusk, it looks stylistically bad. However, I think younger gamers can see it for something fun. Just like how I can look at something inspired by an old black and white movie and know that it looks bad because it is supposed to. I can see the character and fun in it because it was inspired tongue and cheek with something that was stunted by the technology of its time.
- Audio. Not too much to discuss here. The weapons and enemy sound effects truly match up with what I remember from games of old. They sound like someone recorded the voices while super embarrassed that others were watching. It sounds like they’re not actual voice actors, which most of the time they weren’t. Weapons don’t sound bad, but I’m sure if I wore headphones while playing I’d get the boom and bass that I was missing from the larger guns and explosions.The main meat and potatoes of the audio section is the music. They managed to hire the original gangster composer and musician of Quake Champions, Doom Eternal DLC, and more. The man has a full on knowledge of what these types of games are supposed to sound like. Metal. Orchestra. Electronic. Those are all key ingredients that he throws into the blender and gives us levels upon levels of different music. I was probably drooling more than I should have.
- Storyline. This story is bonkers but it doesn’t really show itself too much. I had to look it up, honestly. But I would like to share the setup that I found on Google. I have to because the story is so totally 90’s. Ok, you know that thing where you are a treasure hunter and you go to Pennsylvania to find treasure?? Yeah, that’s our main character, apparently, he has a day job of hunting booty.
It seems to be that instead of finding said booty, he finds a group of miscreants in a cult. The game starts with you being captured. You clearly get free, but now you have to mow and/or cut them down. Think the guy is going to leave? That’s an obvious “no” as well, he takes on these baddies and pushes on, getting to the bottom of it all. That’s really all I’m going to say about it.
- Gameplay. Okay, so, dorito looking 3D is fine as long as the game is a blast to play, remember? Well, Dusk is just that. Now, before we go any further, I didn’t even know the game has gyroscope aiming. I could go play it some more with it, but I’m sure that it’s good enough for those of you that use gyroscope aiming. If not, surely it’s enough of a gimmick that you can drop it and use the sticks. Let’s get back into the review now.First off, the game is 33 levels long. It’s split into three total chapters where you have 11 levels in each chapter. Dusk’s level design is a perfect example of what made the games of old great. What makes it better though is ditching complicated levels with too many “gopher” searching. Levels of old as fun as they were had other issues with them. For example, some would have sprawling nothingness with baddies that you could hear at full volume even though they were on the other side of the level. When you come across them, you have the space to really juke and jump and shoot as you move.Certain other levels will be incredibly tight and linear. These levels are more on the scary side. You’ll find bad guys tucked in nooks and crannies. They will definitely startle you, especially if you’re starting with a higher difficulty. They’ll be right on your ass and be harder to kill and you won’t know that they’re there. If you’re not into horror and just love boomer shooters, I’d suggest you start on an easier difficulty and learn their placement first.
Weapons in this game are definitely varied. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we have Borderlands level variety. Instead, in terms of the games that it emulates, it is toe to toe. Dusk’s weapons also give you some humor within the first half-hour. I won’t list them all, but let’s narrow them down a bit. You have short-range weapons that can stab and cut. You have guns that are both single and rapid fires. Of course, you have long-range weapons that fire explosives. You can also melee with firearms. You’ll find other projectile types that you can use to cause damage in the game. The funny bit that I referred to a moment ago was a bar of soap. It’s slippery and hard to hit villains with. If you manage to give them a bath, it’s a one-hit kill.
You will appreciate how easy it is to swap between the weapons in your arsenal. As you pick them up, they are added to a wheel. You can easily pull up the weapon wheel at any time and change on the go. This is not necessarily a UI option that they had in the 90’s. At least, not when I was playing. I’m glad this modern improvement was added to give the game a higher quality of life. And thank god it works very well in the heat of the moment. There are not any visible dropped frames when opening and closing the wheel and the weapon changing at the same time.
Speaking of killing, we can finally talk about the enemies. They are also varied. Everything from a wave of possessed rats to walking scarecrows to big ass giant enemies. Just as with any game, they all have patterns and tells. Each of them attacking differently from one another. Being swarmed by multiple different types at a time can kill you quick on higher difficulties. The game always gives a fair fight in my opinion.
The AI seems to know exactly what it is supposed to do. And if just because you’re wailing on them and putting in lots of bullets, they don’t take long to drop. Once you down them left and right, you’ll feel like you really have the game learned. But they can definitely be the death of you if you stop moving and shooting. Don’t forget, running and gunning are not your only moves during attack. You can also jump and duck down.
There’s another single-player mode that we’ll discuss further on. But its levels are made differently. The levels here are built to be more confined and yet they’re still open so that you have a bit of space to work on the boys coming atcha. I am a buffoon because I was playing Horde mode and there’s one level with a big mansion looking thing in the middle. I thought to myself it looked sort of like a Silent Hill version of Peach’s Castle. The next time I played it, I paid attention to the name of it. I won’t spoil it, but yes, my thought was right!
- Replayability. Each time I played through it on the next heavier difficulty, the playtime extended. The shortest play-through was 6 hours and 45 minutes, the longest being 10 hours. There are several difficulty options. It wouldn’t be an homage to ID Software games without having cheeky names for the difficulties. In the order of easiest to hardest, the names are: Accessible, Go Easy, I Can Take It, Cero Miedo, and Duskmare. I didn’t also realize that you can change the difficulties as you go too. So if you’re just not feeling it, you can pause the game. On that Pause menu, you’ll be able to find a “Feel” option. Once you’re in, you can adjust the difficulty.
Another difficulty tweak, for the strong-willed, is intruder mode. It forces you to start with the default weapon each time. So you’ll begin with sickles at every level as opposed to getting the keep the weapon and bullets from the previous level. I certainly couldn’t do this after the first few levels and needed firepower as I continued. You really think you can do the entire last chapter starting with sickles each level on higher difficulties? #GoodLuckWithThat
I think what really made the experience great, besides increasing the difficulty, was finding more hidden things that I hadn’t found before. Players can even simply replay the level just to find those hidden items and increase other aspects of their score. You don’t necessarily need to take the route that I took and increase the difficulty each time. You could really set your aspirations high and attempt a 100% completion for each of the difficulties. #AgainGoodLuckWithThat
Last of all, if you’ve exhausted the campaign, you’re not done yet. You have an endless mode available to you. Yes, guys and ghouls, the horde mode is here and it is crazy. It’s a white-knuckling, nonstop “shoot-till-you’re-pooped” deathstravaganza. It really funnels the hordes of hooligans right to you. Lots of fun and I suggest you play it if you’re ever mad at the world. Take it out on these cults and their summoned beasties.
Tremendously bummed out that there isn’t a physical release for this. But honestly, if it were to come out later with the Dusk ’82 demake baked in, I wouldn’t be upset! Otherwise, just download the damn game. The visual options alone make this the perfect game for nostalgic gamers young and old. The gameplay is damn near one-to-one with the games that it was trying to pay homage to. The only real downside I can see here is that if you’re looking for a Quake clone, you’ll be a bit bummed out by the lack of multiplayer. If any game can do kooky, creepy and fast paced, it’s this one. I mean the thing is Quake and Doom had a baby and taught it to smoke cigars!
Finally, I would love to see this game ported for the PS1. It would probably be easier to port to Dreamcast honestly. But I want it. It’s the only 90’s 3D game that is worth it. Do it! Just charge us and send us a burned Dreamcast game with the name written on top in Sharpie from the creators and publishers. I’d easily pay $50 for that.
A fun idea for a sequel!
I want to see a sequel called Dawn where you go around killing angels summoned by ultrapure Christians but all of the angels are falling from grace like Lucifer did. And you have to take your knowledge of killing beasts to kill off Christians attacking you to try to protect the angels and then the angels come at you too. From little flying Cherubs to all out giant angels with massive wingspans.