When classifying a game, you don’t often find something that qualifies as a physics simulation and a platformer. Sonic the Hedgehog is perhaps the only exception. Duster on Symbian^3 appears to be trying to achieve the same classification. While it works on paper, read on to find out what sort of gameplay is on offer.
The object of Duster is to guide your character, who I presume is a ball of dust, to the finish line of each level. The game has four worlds, each with ten levels, so there’s plenty to keep you going.
Duster is controlled by tilting the phone to the left or right to make him/her roll in either direction. Swiping upward makes the little guy jump. Oddly, the left/right tilt controls work in midair so you can abort or correct your trajectory if it looks like your landing might end badly.
Interacting with the environment
Jumping was the first difficulty I faced with this game. The touch gesture requires you to touch duster and swipe upward in a very definite way - feather like swiping won’t do the job. Having to begin by touching Duster makes it harder because you have to catch the little blighter first! None of this lends itself well to a fluid control mechanism.
Catching a ride on some baloons
Hazards come in the form of gaps in the landscape - and vacuums - which are the natural predator of dust balls! Fortunately, vacuums can be defeated by tricking them to fall down gaps in the ground - at which point you’ll see them satisfyingly disintegrate!
The fearsome vacuum cleaner
The physics in Duster is quite convincing, notwithstanding mid-jump steering. The Duster character has momentum which means you have to allow for braking distance, or urgently tilt the phone in the opposite direction to bring him to an abrupt halt - lest he falls to his death!
You can also interact with the environment, there are frequent planks of wood that you can push around. This is a great, if tiresome, way of bridging gaps in the ground.
Bridging the gap
While all of this is interesting and has potential, the reactivity of Duster is slow. So slow that it is very difficult to get into a rhythm, which is the trick to doing well in any platform game.
The sound and graphics in Duster are below par too. The sounds are piercing and I quickly disabled them. The graphics are functional but lack polish; for example, dangerous patches of ground - supposedly lava - have a red and yellow pattern that are clearly made by a bucket fill paint tool.
The last criticism might sound quite pernickety, but Duster costs £3.00 in the Nokia Store, which is relatively expensive. While I wanted to like this one, the molasses like control and basic graphics prevent me from recommending it.
David Gilson, 07 December 2011