The DigestVideo

Games Of July 2012: Dyad

The PS3 downloadable tunnels into our minds, but not our hearts. Also: a kitty.

By John Teti • August 8, 2012

From a critic’s point of view, a game that I don’t like is much less vexing than a game that simply doesn’t inspire me one way or the other. Dyad is the latter. It’s a gorgeous game that has clearly been built with great care. The visuals and the sound design are both meticulous and lush, worthy of praise. Yet it never lit up my brain or my heart the way that plenty of much shabbier games have done.

Also in this episode, our cereal-bar march of misery continues with Cinnamon Toast Crunch bars. Plus, the less famous of the Gameological cats makes his first appearance.

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  • blue vodka lemonade

    Are stylish music-centric shooty rhythm action splosion games a Sony breed exclusively? It seems like they never transition to other consoles, and I feel terribly left out of the trippy color kaleidoscope land experience.

    • doyourealize

      You can try Audiosurf on PC, or, if you only have an Xbox 360, Rez HD is much better.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        Audiosurf isn’t really shooty, but it is awesome.

      • blue vodka lemonade

         I do have Audiosurf, I’m just bad at all the modes except the basic/Mono kind. And once I actually got some friends on Steam to compare scores, it got embarrassing.

        Is Rez HD a disc release or XBLA? I don’t think I knew it existed.

        • doyourealize

          Rez HD is a downloadable title. Really trippy and dancy and shooty and all those other things you mention. I recommend it.

  • X_the_Anonymous_Man_or_Woman

    I haven’t played this game, but from the video clips it looks like a game that would be cool if it worked like Audiosurf and you could load in your own music to change up the levels.

    Then again, I’m super fascinated by games like that. That Symphony game that was shown yesterday sounds super intriguing to me but there’s no demo for me to test it first and I can’t really just spend the cash for it when I have other purchases I am waiting to make in the near future.

  • HobbesMkii

    This game doesn’t pique my interest merely because it sounds like an Audiosurf clone, which was already a Guitar Hero clone, and the ship has really sailed for rhythm games for me. The last “play music” game I picked up was the Asteroids hybrid one, and I can’t really say it was worth it (and I paid a few dollars, tops, for it). 

    Judgement Cat really doesn’t like the camera, huh?

    • X_the_Anonymous_Man_or_Woman

       Judgement Cat hated the attention for in that moment he was the one being judged.

      • HobbesMkii

         Can’t take what he dishes out–it’s an old story.

      • Raging Bear

        I hereby pronounce Judgement Cat…adorable! Gavel gavel gavel!

        • HobbesMkii

          But fidgety.

        • Fluka

          Not fidgety!  Feisty!

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Judge cat lest ye be cat?

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      Whoa now, Audiosurf plays nothing like Guitar Hero. It’s more similar to Klax, and even then it plays differently enough. Plus it’s pretty cool when you’re on drugs. I like it sober too, but I can see people’s complaints with it.

      Also, you didn’t go on to call Guitar Hero a clone of Guitar Freaks, which would have arguably been the only legit “clone” that you listed.

      • HobbesMkii

        I guess clone was a poor choice of words. It’s a clone of approach, not of gameplay. The idea of transferring music into a visually playable form, especially with multi-colored objects descending the screen at you.

        For the record, I love Audiosurf. But I do think it had a lot of the work of establishing a market for it done by Guitar Hero and similar games.

        • PPPfive

           There were many many rhythm action games before Guitar Hero… Frequency springs to mind as a more apparent influence

    • http://twitter.com/donaever DonE

       Dyad is very different from Audiosurf- the latter procedurally generates gameplay elements a la Space Invaders: Infinity Gene and the former is a chameleon of progressive design. Seriously- every level of Dyad plays differently, and then introduces new challenges once each trophy levels come out.

      Perhaps music games aren’t your thing, in which case, all right. But Dyad is no game’s clone.

      • HobbesMkii

         See the reply just above this one.

  • caspiancomic

    Steve continues to be a convincing Fred Willard opposite Teti’s Jim Piddock. No conjecture about Heisler’s masturbatory habits please.

    I don’t know that I’ll play Dyad, since I’m rubbish at rhythm games, but I do find them an interesting subgenre, particularly when they’re as beautifully executed as here. I recently watched Ambisagrus’ Let’s Play BIT.TRIP, and was nearly inspired to purchase BIT.TRIP Runner, but suspicion about my impending frustration and failure stayed my hand.

    While I’m at it, Steve’s anecdote about college slackerdom brought a big dopey grin to my face. I suspect Steve and I are cut from rather the same cloth in at least this respect, since in my own education I’ve been able to reap much more than I ever sowed. In games, as in life, though, that last ten or fifteen percent tends to be the hardest to earn. I guess all the truest successes in the world come from those people who are prepared to attack their goals with almost single-minded ferocity. Whether this means finishing a book or painting, getting the highest grade in the class, or simply beating Ruby and Emerald Weapon, the highest achievements in games and life tend to be inaccessible to those merely squeaking along on natural talent.

    • HobbesMkii

      Yeah, I dunno if it’s just that we’ve seen Steve back to back for Digests, but he does seem to be an appropriate foil for Teti. He’s schlubbier (no offense–most everyone is schlubbier than Teti), and he always starts his first response by pausing the conversation to kind of explain the game a little more before dissecting it. I appreciate that. 

      Haha, that guy sucks at talking people down from jumping!

      • caspiancomic

         Oh, well they always jump.

  • Ghostfucker

    It’s good to have a constant clear reminder that DL Hughley remains unfunny.

    • HobbesMkii

      Oddly enough, I haven’t seen that ad since I complained about it in yesterday’s Digest. It’s been nothing but Red Stripe and Sasquatch/AV Club cross promoted Beef Jerky for me.

  • ToddG

    John’s experience with this game sounds identical to my own.  I wanted to three-star every level before moving on, and gave up fairly quickly.

    • SamPlays

      Yeah, same experience here with Frequency and Amplitude (mentioned below). It was deeply unsatisfying to simply scrape by with the minimum required performance. In retrospect, it was hardly worth the effort because I would spent (literally) hours trying to get everything perfect, just so I could unlock every track, or get the highest possible percentage, or whatever. At the end of the day, I was wasting time perfecting a skill that was absolutely useless – my mastery of pressing buttons rhythmically clearly has no application in the real world, let alone other video games, which often will only ask me to mash the same button without any sense of rhythm. 

  • SamPlays

    Rhythm-based games have always seemed like a novelty, similar to “3-D!” films of today (and many decades ago for those old enough to remember). My first substantial experience was with Frequency, although I recall playing Parappa the Rapper for a few minutes back in the PS1 days. Just to be clear, I played Frequency, um, frequently and I really enjoyed the challenge of tuning my responses like a well-oiled music box. Honestly, there’s shit I pulled off in that game that I would never be able to do now or ever again, even though I was only pressing no more than three buttons in a specific sequence. 

    Frequency wasn’t a very well-known game (probably because it largely used techno songs from relatively obscure artists) but it was successful enough that Harmonix was able to release Amplitude, which was a flashier game with a much more recognizable roster of artists (i.e., No Doubt, Weezer, Garbage, David Bowie). My enjoyment of Amplitude was measurably less perhaps because it was the exact same game with new clothes. After that, I lost all interest in the rhythm genre. I tried the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games but they seemed completely soulless, which is the wrong feeling when you’re playing along to The Beatles. I’m just glad I don’t have any stupid, plastic guitars laying in my basement. The only title that caught my fancy since then was the Korg DS-10 (for DS, obviously), which wasn’t even a rhythm game but a super-lite synthesizer app. 

    I’m thinking about what I said yesterday regarding “cinematic” narrative in games and my attitude towards rhythm games seems to come from the same place: both require me to “play” in a highly specific manner that completely undermines the meaning of play. I’d rather have fun on my own terms rather than be a mechanism for the game to scroll along it’s tracks. I think rhythm games represent the fundamental mechanics that define a great deal of popular games today. Similar to what I said yesterday, if I want to play music, I’ll pick up my guitar or bass (or my Korg DS-10!).

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      This is why you should play Inis games (well, before Lips), which completely unite the 2.  Gitaroo Man, especially, is the greatest and most harmonious music game ever.  I wish the Bemani games would go in that direction.  I don’t really like Rhythm Heaven, but it does okay at combining play with meaning (it’s just that this meaning is often chopping blocks of wood).  I think Otocky, despite being far older, offers a more coherent version of what Rez/Child Of Eden/Audiosurf do.

      Former games writer James Mielke also did a piece on Gamasutra about the Lumines that would have been.

  • doyourealize

    This one’s not a fan of the Angry Birds level-grading style. I feel like what you both mention as a problem – the gap between 2 and 3 stars – is a common thing in any game with this feature. Add that to the fact that you’re never really sure how close you are to 3 stars, and it makes me feel like the game is judging me, and it has no right (unlike Nipsy the Judgment Cat, which can feel free to judge me). Usually I turn off a game right away that contains hundreds of levels labelled on numbered squares with three empty stars under each one. Where’s My Water is the exception. At least, if you only have two ducks on a completed level, you know it’s because you didn’t get the third duck.

    • ToddG

      Dyad at least gives you the three-star requirements up front.  But in general I completely agree.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Aw, from your first sentence, I thought you were going to go full-on Hanar in your comment. Je suis déçu.

      It bugs me when games “evaluate” me on my performance, whether through 3-star rating systems or end-of-mission reports. Even looking at my accuracy in a shooting game makes me uncomfortable (especially since that figure is all too often south of 30%). That said, I almost never go back to try to improve my score. Progress over perfection, I say.

      • BarbleBapkins

        End of level grading drives me crazy. I can feel the game’s smug judgement of me, and since making a “B” or 3 out of 4 stars is about as good as I ever do, I begin to suspect it might have a point.

        One game that was really terrible for this was Megaman Zero. I would beat a really hard level and be pretty pleased with myself, only to have “GRADE–C” with the implied “YOU SUCK!” pop up on the screen and completely burst my bubble. Let me have my moment of glory, you stupid game!

        • Ghostfucker

          It bothers me in most games because it seems to imply that certain types of play are inherently better, so no matter how many options are open to you, there are only a small number that are viable as far as the score system is concerned. I’m mostly thinking of stealth, fps and action games here rather than arcade style games. If I’m playing a stealth game, when I get caught I like to try and get out of the situation and hide again. Most of the ranking and scoring systems in those games make it clear that the “optimal” way to play would be to restart the level as soon as you’re caught and try again, but this is a lot less fun way to play! Shouldn’t they want to incentivize fun gameplay over anal-retentive perfection?

      • doyourealize

        I have no idea why I started with “this one”.

        I briefly thought about continuing with the Hanar speech, but then remembered Cookie Monster over at the AV Club, and wondered if I would have resort to Hanar speech all the time and, if so, would I have to change my handle to reflect this properly. I just decided to stop right there.

        In conclusion, I have no idea why I started with “this one”.

        • HobbesMkii

          You concluded where you started–way to build satisfying closure into your writing.

        • Electric Dragon

          This one has forgotten whether its heat sink is over capacity. It wonders whether the criminal scum considers itself fortunate.

  • Effigy_Power

    I found it weird that nobody seems to be bothered by the general visual of the game, which is fairly well suited to induce sickness. I am neither epileptic nor have any visual issues, but going along these hyperchromatic tunnels at zippedee speed even on the videos fatigues my peepers at record rate, the same way certain Guitar Hero levels do.

    Also, I just couldn’t wait until Friday:

    http://i.imgbox.com/acbL0IsH.png

    Call it pandering to Comment Cat, I care not. The disgusting food reference needs to be as fresh as humanly possible.

    • caspiancomic

       Welp, competition over. Eff wins everything.

    • Electric Dragon

      There needs to be a poster of that hung up in the background the next time Heisler guests on The Digest.

  • Hysterium

    A lot of people seem to be convinced that this is a rhythm game – I just want to clear up that it isn’t at all. The music responds to your actions (sometimes quite stunningly), but no interaction you have with the game needs to be in rhythm. 

    Personally, I absolutely adore this game, but I’m a sucker for high-score games like Geometry Wars or Pac Man DX. I understand not loving it, especially if you never find a groove with it, but one point made in the video gave me pause, which was claiming that the game only has one trick. Yes, making “dyads” out of pairs is the core mechanic, but nearly every level introduces a new enemy, a new goal, or even a completely different way to approach the game. For example, for most of the game running into enemies is a setback, but a later level will introduce it as a temporarily required mechanic. 

    When I played Dyad particularly well, I would fall into an almost meditative state, letting the colors and the music wash over me as I leaped from spot to spot, weaving between obstacles. It’s trippy, unique, challenging, and certainly worth a download of the demo at the very least.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

    I’ll be honest, I’m willing to forgive a LOT when a game offers some sort of unique experience. I’ll overlook deficincies in gameplay if the game itself is somewhat unique, or gives me a different way to play or think about playing. Like Killer7, for instance. Strictly from a gameplay perspective, it’s pretty weak– not challenging, not original, not all that engaging, etc. But from a storytelling perspective, and especially a visual perspective, it was unlike anything I had ever played before. And that’s what dominates my memories of the game, and what makes me recommend it others, instead of the rail shooting core. But I would completely understand why someone who wanted a meatier or better designed core mechanic would not share my opinions.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      “I’m willing to forgive a LOT when a game offers some sort of unique experience.”

      Luckily, this is true of 90 percent of the people here.  That’s not to say everyone overrates unique games (though I do!), but that they appreciate that games aren’t reducible to their mechanics.

  • Baramos x

    The creator of this game was a guest on the Insert Credit podcast this week, he’s a pretty funny guy and kept up with the regular crew pretty well.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Tim Rogers’ ad was magnificent, too, and even seemed to go over well with internet commenters, of all people.