The Colour And The Shape

Dyad combines puzzles and racing for a synesthetic trip down the hole.

By Derrick Sanskrit • July 19, 2012

Cinema auteur David Lynch has described his approach to art as seeking out “the eye of the duck.” The idea is that every piece of art, from abstract paintings to commercial film, has similar anatomy to a duck. Each element—the bill, the legs, the body—has its own shape, size, and texture that connect to one another to make the whole thing. “And the key,” Lynch says, “is where the eye is placed … a lot of times you can get the bill right, and the legs and the body and everything, but this eye of the duck is a certain scene, this jewel, that if it’s there, it makes the whole thing beautiful.”

It’s telling that the 27th and final stage of Shawn McGrath’s PlayStation debut, Dyad, is titled “Eye Of The Duck.” After hours of familiarizing themselves with the varied textures and forms of the hybrid shooter/puzzle/racing game, players are treated to this perfect scene where the blinders of competition are lifted and the full sensurround experience is permitted to envelop your eyes, ears, and fingertips. You’re no longer burdened with concerns of speed, scores or leaderboards; you’re simply allowed to exist within a Technicolor dream.


Of course, it’s no fun to break the rules unless you’ve lived by them first, and that’s what the first 26 stages of Dyad are for. The primary mode of locomtion—“hooking” obstacles—is less like the grappling hook of Bionic Commando and more like Spider-Man’s web-lines. When Spidey stops spinning webs, he just dangles in place. So, much like Spidey needs two or more lines of webbing to keep his momentum going, your avatar in Dyad doesn’t really take off unless you hook onto continuous targets. Two-in-a-row of the same color gives a speed boost. If you try to survive for too long without a speed boost and you’re dead in the LSD-laced water.

The risks and rewards ramp up as the game progresses. I got a wonderful rush of smug satisfaction when I’d dodge an enemy’s precision attack to ride the glowing neon zip-line left in its wake. Riding six of these bright pink paths, one after the other, made me feel like a golden god. Successful chains of boosts and power-ups pump your speed up to Spaceballs “they’ve gone plaid” levels. The speed amplifies the glaring bloom of neon light streaks emitted by every dang thing, as well as the oontz-oontz pulse of the rave-ready sound environment. Bright lights and pounding beats make for a remarkably pretty ride, but flying face-first while tripping balls makes it ever so much harder to keep from crashing.


The lights and music are enthralling. While it may look like a rhythm game akin to Audiosurf or Bit.Trip Core, Dyad is the opposite, in a way. Instead of having the beat of a song dictate the controls, the game’s tempo and visual flair are a direct result of your actions. If a song ever seems dull, it’s probably because you’re not hitting enough stuff. A poorly played game looks and sounds depressing and uncomfortable, while a record-setting run is a shimmering marvel of lens flares the likes of which J.J. Abrams has never dreamed.

Perhaps the greatest rewards in Dyad are the remix options, which allow you to bliss out on infinitely looping stages, with invulnerability and an even more heavily distorted audio-visual presentation. There are plenty of video games that encourage or even require the player to turn off their brain. Dyad demands so much thought and attention that these psychedelic mental shut-down stages feel like a satisfying after-dinner mint.

Developer: ][ Games
Publisher: Sony
Platform: PlayStation 3
Price: $15
Rating: E

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1,051 Responses to “The Colour And The Shape”

  1. RidleyFGJ says:

    This game is quite very good; it’s a bit like F-Zero by way of Jeff Minter. Definitely do not go into it with the expectations of it being a passive experience, though, as it is quite challenging (the trophy levels, in particular, are devious).

  2. ferrarimanf355 says:

    I’m going to pass on this. I play games to have fun, not to have epileptic seizures.

    And my backlog is too big anyways.

  3. caspiancomic says:

    If I play this will I redeem myself for never having played Rez?

    • blue vodka lemonade says:

       Never. You will never redeem yourself.

      I can redeem you, though, so I just did.

    • Girard says:

       Only if you can jerry-rig your own “trance vibrator” peripheral.

      • When Shawn McGrath would demo Dyad over the past year or so he had this chair the player would sit in that would pivot and rotate with the player’s controls. He called it “The Machine.” I am sad that this is not yet another otherwise useless PlayStation peripheral.

  4. Enkidum says:

    The real problem is that this game looks to be far too difficult to play well while really high. Which surely cuts down on its intended market?

  5. A Lynch-referencing psychedelic rhythm shooter that is the opposite of Audiosurf thanks to your agency in the proceedings? Sign my ass up.

    It’s interesting to see the ebb and flow of rhythm game creation. Every few years it seems to shift between following the beat and creating the beat itself. Rez begets Audiosurf begets Dyad. 

    Sounds like this is a must play.