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Video Game / Dustforce

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Dry leaves are Serious Business

Let's Dust!

Dustforce is an acrobatic 2D platformer produced by indie developer Hitbox Team. You play as the Dustforce, a band of the most athletic cleaners in the world. Your objective is to dash, Double Jump, Wall Jump, wall run and somersault through twisting Parkour racecourses while cleaning up all the dust that litters its obscure corners.

The game is Le Parkour at its finest as you will have to pick the optimal path to take you past all the dust and use dizzying combinations of wall-running to keep you on track. The game is focused on flowing gameplay, with a scoring system that awards not only dust collected but combos, meaning you will need to use seamless platforming to avoid stopping collecting dust. Only a perfect run, collecting all the dust without stopping, will net you the highest SS ranking (S+ in the prototype).

Of particular note are the dust mechanics. As well as looking beautiful the dust (or leaves etc.) clings to floors, walls and ceilings and is placed in such a way to mark the optimal path through the level. While you will still have to work out how to collect it all, you can deduce what kind of sequence of acrobatics is required to proceed.

The game also features beautiful environments, smooth animation and soothing music, giving it a very airy and light atmosphere.

The game was released on Steam on January 17, 2012. An extensive prototype demo was released a while back, including a set of levels and a full level-editor. Each level has a different character, with some emphasizing acrobatics, others smooth combo-building, and one showcasing some Nintendo Hard platforming. Be warned though that this prototype is out of date, running on an entirely different engine and having much more temperamental controls than the final product. You can find the prototype here.

A PlayStation 3 and Play Station Vita port was released on February 4, 2014. An update, Dustforce DX, was released on October 23 of the same year, reworking the tutorial and hub, as well as adding more levels (including the user-made Community Map Pack).

Dustforce provides examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The characters have names. You would only ever be able to find them out if you look through the game's files. For the Dustforce, blue guy is Dustman, red is Dustgirl, purple is Dustkid, and green is Dustworth. For their Mirror Boss counterparts, their respective names are Dustwraith, Leafsprite, Trashking, and Slimeboss.
  • Almighty Janitor: The main cast are basically some of the most literal interpretations of this trope, being street sweeping ninjas.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Trash cans, books and other objects are after the player as they're corrupted for not being cleaned.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Dust created by strong attacks counts towards your Completion ranking. However, using a strong attack to kill an enemy that triggers the victory scene won't create dust, since the victory animation prevents you from moving or attacking and the dust you would have made would tarnish your Completion percent.
    • If you die without touching any checkpoints, the level resets instead of respawning you at the start, so you have a fresh chance at getting an S rank unhampered by time wasted or deaths taken. This ties in with...
    • ...the option to remove all checkpoints in the level. Another way to quickly restart the level from scratch should you die.
  • Battle Aura: When the player reaches a high enough combo, a trailing version appears, which indicates you can use your Charged Attack.
  • Benevolent Architecture: Levels are set up for maximum acrobatics and dust trails show you the way through.
  • Blush Sticker: The female characters have these.
  • Book Ends: Sort of. The tutorial stage and Brutal Bonus Levels share a tileset, and the original Brutal Bonus Level shares its music as well.
  • Bottomless Pits: Plenty of levels have them implied in the form of instant-death-zones below the stage, but genuine bottomless "pits" (really just the area outside of the level) can be found if you manage to make your way out of the main stage area or find an opening in the aforementioned death-zones.
  • Broom Stick Quarterstaff: Two characters use them, both to sweep and smash.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: Actually an entire Brutal Bonus World consisting of eight levels, ranging from difficult to unimaginably sadistic.
    • Infini Difficult takes this several orders of magnitude beyond the bounds of sanity, a Marathon Level requiring several advanced techniques usually reserved for Sequence Breaking.
  • Charged Attack: Collect-type. Based on combo-counts, the bar charges up to 100 at which point the attack can be activated to wipe out all enemies and dust nearby.
    • The bar also appears to be charged by getting hit by enemies, but this is not particularly ideal since one hit breaks your combo.
  • Critical Existence Failure: In the prototype, your character explodes into a cloud of dust on hitting spikes or simply falling out of the play area. Strangely beautiful when the cloud is made of autumn leaves or polygons.
  • Death Course: As the player progresses, the later levels are this, requiring pixel-perfect jumps to avoid spikes and hazards with little room to manoeuvre.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Frequent checkpoints mean you aren't sent back far, but dying will break your combo and thus lower your finesse rank.
  • Double Jump: Smashing an object restores your double jump even if you double jumped into it. Dustkid has a triple jump.
  • Earn Your Fun: Simply running a level from beginning to end is simple enough, but in order to unlock new levels you must get SS ranks, which means cleaning every speck of dust in the level without breaking your combo.
  • Easter Egg: Remote locations can feature these. Sometimes there are apples, sometimes signs. In observatory level, reaching the observatory darkens the level and silences the music.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Wild animals, books, garbage cans, treasure chests and many other things are not happy for not being clean.
  • Flawless Victory: The elusive SS rank requires a perfect run, as a single mistake may require restarting the level.
  • Follow the Dust: Dust both boosts your score and guides you through levels. Collecting it is also the objective in-story, making this an excellent example of Gameplay and Story Integration.
  • Gag Nose: Dustman and Dustworth have pink noses.
  • Ground Pound: Happens if you hit the ground at a high enough speed, allowing you to instantly clear nearby dust.
  • Guide Dang It!: There are numerous mechanics and techniques crucial to competitive play which are unclear or completely unexplained by the game. For example, you can dash at the bottom of a ramp to get a huge speed boost off it, but this is only revealed by some random NPCs in certain hub worlds. The ability to clear dusty surfaces with attacks isn't even explained at all, though it's easy to figure out.
    • A detailed explanation of the mechanics reveals abilities like jump-dashing, speed dashing down slopes, hitting dust and enemies through walls, attack canceling, and more. If you watch the demos of top-ranked players before learning these moves, they will appear for all the world to be magic speed gods.
  • Hidden Eyes: All the playable characters have their eyes obscured by either their headwear or their hair, unless you want to make an exception for Dustwraith.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: A source of frustration for players is being unable to tell where exactly is the edge of a cliff of a jump with respect to the four characters while moving, causing them to waste their double jump prematurely.
  • Hub Level - A separate hub for each world (in DX, combined into one massive hub), as well as a main hub to connect them.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Arguably everyone — see Improvised Weapon below — but Dustkid's weapon is weird even by the standards of the game. She uses oversized dusters that she wields like some sort of bizarre, weaponized pom-poms.
  • Improvised Weapon: Your characters use the same brooms, dusters and vacuum cleaners they use to remove dust to smash containers and obstacles (also made of dust).
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: A single-use key will work on any appropriate door of that type.
  • Jack of All Stats: Dustman has an average speed and attack compared to other 3.
  • Level Editor: A quite in-depth one, accessible from the main nexus. Design your own levels, or download other players' creations from the Atlas.
  • Le Parkour
  • Last Lousy Point: For the highest rank you need every single dust mote in a level, and if you miss one by fluffing a jump backtracking for it is either risky (delays risk breaking your combo) or impossible.
  • Limit Break: A multi-hit Flash Step, charged up by dusting or attacking enemies.
  • Living Statue: There are gargoyle statues in castle levels that attack the player.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Castles, streets, forests and labs usually aren't that hostile in real life as they are in this game.
  • Marathon Level: The Yotta Difficult level, a combination of parts of all 7 previous Difficult levels. The first recorded SS run took about 2.5 minutes, which is very long compared to the minute or less it takes to complete most other levels.
  • Martial Arts and Crafts Elite ninja skills applied to cleaning
  • Mirror Boss: The Dustforce has an opposing team of dust-spreaders with similar acrobatic skill sets. Each is playable in Multiplayer King of the Hill and Survival matches.
  • Mooks, but no Bosses: The boss-looking Evil Counterparts that appear in the startup cutscene and the Steam trading cards are actually multiplayer characters.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: It's a game about cleaning things, but with ample Le Parkour and a robust combat system thrown in.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • Many of the gold-key levels fall into this category, such as Night Temple, Core Temple, or Hideout to name a few.
    • Getting an SS score on every gold-key level unlocks the Difficults. The first one, Giga Difficult, was hard enough, but the developers then added a whole host of bonus levels, ranging from Kilo to Exa. When those proved easy enough, they unleashed Zetta Difficult, which introduced a newly discovered technique to the main game, and Marathon Level Yotta Difficult.
    • Their precursor, the prototype Difficult level, required pixel-perfect platforming to stay alive.
    • With the DX update came Inifini Difficult, well hidden, which jumps directly to Platform Hell.
  • No Plot? No Problem!
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: In every level there is actually an invisible death zone under the stage that kills you if you fall off. If you neglect to put this into a stage you made with the editor the player will fall a very long time until they hit the edge of the huge map area and die.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Zig-zagged. Falling off the course area or hitting spikes will instantly kill you and send you back to the previous checkpoint, but enemies can't actually directly kill you at all. However, because taking damage breaks your combo (and drops your Finesse score), players aiming for SS will self-enforce One-Hit-Point Wonder status by restarting the level if they're ever hit.
  • Platform Hell: With the advent of the final DX update, a hidden level was found by attempting to create a custom level and giving it the name "exec func ruin user"note . It takes the insane difficulty of the already Nintendo Hard bonus levels, removes any hint of being fair, and adds back the enemies from the rest of the game, including the projectile-shooting porcupines and Damage Sponge bears.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Dustgirl and Dustman have colour-coded overalls and combo auras.
  • Scenery Porn: The autumn leaves in particular look very impressive.
    • Each level set has its own aesthetic and dust type. The dusty castle, autumn leaf valley, and tron-esque computerscapes are all beautiful, and the cityscape and laboratory have quite a few moments of beauty as well.
  • Serious Business: Cleaning.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: Animated armor.
  • Shout-Out: Last Stop, a Survival stage consisting of a single flat platform.
  • SI Prefix Name: The game has a series of bonus levels, the Difficults, named from Kilo to Exa. (eg. "Giga Difficult").
  • Spikes of Doom: The mansion and virtual areas feature these. Other areas feature replacements such as live wires, brambles, or traffic cones.
  • Temporary Platform: Dust can form these, forcing you to erase the ground under your feet. Even worse when you have a complex sequence constructed out of these platforms over a bottomless pit.
  • Tron Lines: The tutorial level has this aesthetic, as well as the final extra difficult level set.
  • Videogame Dashing: A big part of gameplay. Ground dashing, air dashing and wall dashing are present.
  • Wall Jump: A big part of gameplay.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: A few levels in the Community Map Pack, including Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland) and Awareness (Thomas Was Alone).