The soothing light at the end of your tunnel
Dyad is a game about tunnels. Rather, Dyad is a game that is set in a tunnel, of light I suppose, that you career down at occasionally blistering speeds while doing things. I’m sure there used to be a genre devoted entirely to games like this but it’s lost on me now. At one point progressing through cylinders was much of what we cared about as gamers, so Dyad almost starts to feel retro, but it’s a new take on the non-genre and a reasonably interesting one at that.
Dyad is clearly going for the Child of Eden-style synethesia, mixing audio and visuals into a mind bending experience that permeates the whole game, except it doesn’t really work. While Child of Eden started to feel special somehow, Dyad never really transcends past what it is. There are moments when it gets faster and more complicated and you slip into some kind of zone where you are the tunnel king, but then you’re often snapped out of it by an accidental hit and you’re left playing a game about tubes while that weird vision-distorting effect you get from playing Guitar Hero for too long messes with your eyesight.
At it’s heart, Dyad is a puzzle-action game like Audiosurf, you progress along a track and try to hook yourself onto enemies of the same colour in order to increase your speed and score. You can also build an energy meter that allows you to lance through enemies, creating combos or increasing your speed further. The game is split into a number of levels with slightly different challenges and obstacles, but in essence it always boils down to ‘try to go really fast while being careful what you latch on to’. The latching idea is neat, with you having to line up with enemies, firing, then smoothly needing to avoid them to make sure you don’t crash, and then there are some enemies you can’t even latch on to without losing points. Sadly the mechanic doesn’t really feel weighty and there’s no sense of any physical connection between you and the enemies. From the description it sounds like you’ll be slingshotting yourself forwards, but the truth is more than selecting enemies gives you a boost, with no tangible connection existing.
The music is serviceable, but no more interesting than the wide array of other music/action/.puzzle titles on the market. It lacks any kind of distinctive quality and won’t get in your head like that of Super Hexagon. Each interaction with an enemy creates a new sound, but with no incentive to work to the rhythm, it never feels part of the overall soundtrack and seems a little awkward on top, like a fifth member of the band desperately banging a triangle to try and keep up.
The visuals are suitably trippy but lack any kind of definition or specific art style. It looks like a Winamp visualiser and although it attempts to innovate as the levels progress, it feels as though you’ve seen it all before. Every twist in the style is reminiscent of something else without being close enough to be an homage. Oddly, on our PC at least the game defaulted to being played in a window, possibly hinting that it was never designed to be an all-engrossing experience.
There is a distinct lack of polish too, with star objectives often not being explained clearly, levels ending in a blurry fade-out in which you can still get points and progression being a little all over the place with no kind of definite goal. The campaign features levels split into confusingly-named sections that offer little indication of difficulty or challenge.
Overall, Dyad feels distinctly average. It’s a distraction and there’s nothing terribly wrong with it, but it’s not interesting either and there are much better options for the same type of game. If you’re interested by the locking onto enemies etc, go play Child of Eden, if you like the puzzle elements, pick up Audiosurf. Dyad sits somewhere uncomfortably in the middle without ever really breaking into its own stride.