Dystoria is a fun little game that, while not particularly deep, is a fun romp through space. With an 80s arcadey feel and a level of difficulty that ramps up a lot near the end, Dystoria is a great choice for those times when you just want to zone out without having to worry much about a story arc or complicated mechanics. It’s simple yet tough, somewhat short but fun, and is overall a solid first title for a two-man indie studio.
In Dystoria, the player pilots a spaceship through about thirty levels that either require the player to collect three orbs and get to the exit portal or destroy all the enemies before exiting. Scattered throughout each level are Nucleons that can be used to purchase new weapons. Destroying enemies grants salvage to buy better ships. As the player becomes stronger, the levels get tougher, and it all culminates with a surprising, satisfying ending.
The gameplay of Dystoria centers on the gravity-bending mechanic that allows the player to stick to any surface. Each level is made of individual blocks clumped together into shapes and structures. The player can glide around on the top, sides or the bottom of any structure. The game takes this mechanic and runs with it; enemies are scattered across the planes, and the ability to explore every surface provides for some hidden goodies in the levels as well.
As the player progresses, he or she will need to use the ship’s primary and secondary fire as well as bombs to dispatch enemies. As I played, the gameplay reminded me a lot of RESOGUN, as I found myself strafing, firing rapidly, managing weapons and using twitch reflexes in both titles. Not to mention, the neon aesthetic is very reminiscent of the game as well.
I also found myself reminded a lot of TRON, both in the game’s visuals and in its soundtrack. I’m a sucker for almost anything electronic, and the soundtrack of Dystoria hits just the right notes. It’s never too wild, but it’s also not particularly mellow either. It fits the action perfectly.
Dystoria’s enemies are varied and sometimes require the player to prioritize and consider which to take out first. The action feels great and requires the player to think on his or her toes. The game’s ending takes the action and mixes it up, making the finale feel fresh while still pulling on the mechanics built up throughout the game. I was surprised by how enjoyable the finale was, even if it was somewhat different from the rest of the game’s action.
There is a story to the game, but it’s a paper thin, “been there, done that” affair that seems to solely exist to move the game forward. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; Dystoria is very much like an arcade game and is a throwback to a time when stories didn’t matter much. It’s all about the action, and the action in the game is certainly a blast.
But, Dystoria was made by a two-man team, and sometimes it shows. There are some typos and grammatical errors in the game as well as a couple oddities that I’m not quite sure are bugs or not. First, I found that if I tried to use one of the game’s transporters while being attacked by an enemy, I would continue to take damage on the other side until I died, even though I left the enemy far behind. Using a speed boost pad or hitting an angle awkwardly flings the ship off the structure and the player must navigate back. Homing missiles aren’t very smart; they seem to lock onto the closest enemy, even if that enemy is obscured by a wall. It would seem to make more sense to fire at the closest enemy that could actually be hit, but I digress.
The only issue that really made a noticeable gameplay difference is the one involving taking damage after being transported. I died several times due to that issue, and it was quite annoying. Otherwise, it’s understandable the game isn’t perfect seeing as it was developed by only a duo. What’s important is that the game is fun.
Dystoria doesn’t break crazy new ground with gameplay, but it’s a blast. The neon visual aesthetic and hypnotising electronic soundtrack mix with satisfying, fast-paced gameplay to create an experience that’s fun without being too deep. It’s the right formula for an arcade classic and is great to sprinkle in with the more “serious” games dropping this season.