I played Dyad for about an hour the first time around. As soon as I quit the game my body snapped out of it and tears ran down my face, making up for all the blinking I was supposed to be doing while I played.
Dyad is paradoxical. When you first get to the main menu you are faced with a minimalist presentation of the level packages. Each of these level packages is given a name like ‘2.76 TeV’ or ‘3.5 TeV’. If you’re an engineer, the first thing that comes to mind is eV, or electron volts, a measure of energy. And if you really have a lot of time on your hands, you might pop that into Google and find out that each of these level packages is named after specific levels of energy used in particle collisions. So from the get-go you have a game that invites you in with a clean interface and technical undertones.
But if you’ve watched any of the gameplay, you know Dyad quickly delves into synesthetic, audio-visual chaos. Remember watching the trailer and thinking you had absolutely no clue what was going on? Turns out the game does a great job of easing you into the mechanics so you don’t have to start in medias res. I never really get lost in the spectacle because the gameplay is grounded by simple mechanics. You move left and right and press X to latch onto enemies to pull yourself forward. Later levels add more challenges but the controls never get so complicated to get in the way. Most of what appears on screen is a backdrop. Part of the success of this title is keeping everything you need to see in a small area so the twitch gameplay doesn’t get overwhelming.
And let’s be clear here: this is one of the most addicting games I’ve played in a long time. If you find yourself the least bit obsessive you will love Dyad. I would often beat early levels with a 3-star rating on the first try but trophy levels are particularly difficult. It takes an immense amount of skill to earn some trophies, to the point where looking at the description is enough to make you question your sanity in attempting them.
Dyad says, “When I say jump, you ask how high.”
I say, “Let me just run over here and grab my pogo stick.”
The reason this works, as it does with all addicting games that place the goal just out of reach, is because the mechanics are so simple. You need to change your strategy, not your dexterity, to succeed. In that way Dyad is often difficult, but never unfair. If you want to feel like a god amongst men, you will love chasing after Dyad’s platinum trophy.
As an audiophile, I can tell this was a labor of love in all the subtle ways. When you select a level, the equalizer shifts to increase bass levels. Electronic paradigms like square beats and trance synthesizer come out in force, but conventional sounds like string chords and those percussion clicky sticks are layered expertly as well. If you have headphones, plug them in. When The Light Spectrum’s thumping base line accelerates as you dodge what feels like thousands of mines, your ears will thank you. Your heart, however, might take a cue from Alien.
What makes Dyad so special is its take on the fusion of what you play with what you hear. Often games will write music that complements the action on screen and sometimes takes cues from gameplay, fading out as a character is wounded to emphasize sound effects or shifting entirely to let you know danger is around the corner. Dyad plays it 50-50. The way you play affects the music in the background, whether speeding it up as you latch onto a target in the far field or giving a string of satisfying pings as you lance through a set of mines. But in a brilliant twist, the music also affects your gameplay, both directly and indirectly. Yes there’s the build up of a song sharpening your movements as you shift around the tube you’re hurtling through, but Dyad also uses the songs to dictate gameplay. Dyad often makes you latch onto pairs of the same color mines, but in an early trophy level, the color is stripped away and you are forced to pick the correct mine based on the sound of the music. This paradigm shift never ceases to surprise in Dyad.
While I doubt Dyad will satisfy every gamer, if you are a fan of PSN’s more artistic lineup or enjoy music games, you will love Dyad’s collision of solid gameplay mechanics, trance visuals, and electronic music.