Properly labeling RSBLSB Games’ Dyad may be its greatest challenge. The game’s reliance on swiftness and insistence to move you forward at break-neck speeds gives it the qualities of a racing title, but it’s not nearly so simple. Pure, untamed velocity means nothing as you travel down the epilepsy-inducing tubes without a good ear. The rhythmic nature of each action committed forces anyone controlling the experience to carefully time both movement and specific button presses; creating continued puzzles through each level. The blissful sense of movement drives you to surpass the speed of light, but none of that enticing speed can be obtained without a passive sense of timing and melody.
All of these factors make Dyad a nightmare to categorize, but a joy to experience. This PlayStation Network title may lose a bit of its momentum as it needlessly adds difficulty through overwhelming the senses, but the moments when it all clicks are like few ever achieved in the medium. Dyad is a symphony of colors, and one worth the $15 ticket.
Simplicity is the name of the game when entering the first level. You control a squid-like avatar as it travels down a long, kaleidoscopic tunnel; gaining speed by bolting on to orbs, or enemies, along the path. The creature’s pace is sluggish to begin with, but hooking onto enemies rewards you with just a taste of the game’s sublime movement. The first level gives you the hunger for more, and thankfully, the remaining areas feed your gluttony. New mechanics, like speed strips that propel you forward and the ability to Lance through incoming enemies make your progress feel meaningful. Fresh enemies and power-ups increase both the game’s rapidity and rhythmic brilliance, adding extra layers of difficulty for your mind to deal with.
Speaking of difficulty, each stage carries an even greater test of skill after you’ve earned all three of its stars. Trophy challenges add, or even take away, different aspects of gameplay in each level to challenge you possibly even beyond your breaking point. The audio and visual cues may be removed to flip the game on its head, or a stricter time limit for lancing a set amount of enemies may be implemented to increase the pressure. The first trophy level, in many ways, exceeds the challenge seen in the last level of the game, and it only gets more severe as you progress.
The trophies add some true replay value for those looking to challenge their skills, but since new mechanics are introduced as you progress, moving back to older levels with hopes of obtaining three stars feels a bit reductive. It’s difficult to not grow accustomed to riding speed strips through the use of Triads and grazing enemies to induce a Lance, and while just moving weightlessly around tunnels that would make even the brightest rainbow blush never gets old, replaying past stages with just the basic skill set does.
There’s still a great deal of content to enjoy in Dyad, and the variety each level brings can’t be discounted. You’re always using the fresh skills you acquire in new, exciting ways, and it’s rare to feel like you’re truly doing the same thing twice. Speed is almost always the goal, but the manner by which you gain that momentum is dynamic. The assortment of things to do never disrupts the game’s overall harmony, though. When you’re truly succeeding at the task, you feel as if you’re helping create a track from one of the craziest, undiscovered techno albums on the market. You have control over the music, which is why running into an enemy is so discouraging. Your mistakes are met with a violent screech, so while leaderboards already entice you to give your best effort, keeping the music going becomes an even greater driving force.
It’s also worth highlighting for the tenth time that this is a game with a dizzyingly striking presentation. Comparisons to Rez HD can be made, but Dyad’s barrage of color and style is far too unique to just brush off. At times it may be difficult to separate the audio and visual splendor from the core gameplay , as they’re all so expertly entwined, but each element has been given more than enough care to stand on its own. Some of the relaxation and moments of “zen” that you’d hope to achieve through just experiencing Dyad with your eyes and ears are diminished due to its insistence on your cognitive attention and reflexes, but its demand for your attention is exactly what defines it as a “game” and not just some piece of interactive art.
Bits and pieces from multiple genres can help describe what Dyad achieves, but none of them define the final experience. This is a distinctive, challenging piece of content that forces players to keep all of their senses sharper than the colorful aesthetic suggests. A certain amount of sensory overload may damage a few of the stages, but it’s difficult to not become enchanted by the sense of movement and rhythm. It may take some practice to experience all that Dyad has to offer, but it’s worth investing both your time and attention into this singular, downloadable treat.
Dyad was developed and published by RSBLSB Games. A PSN copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.