Insert Credit endeavors to suss out where you should be allotting your video game allowance, sifting out a single title from many and crowning it as The One Game You Need to Get This Week. Don’t consider these reviews, gentle reader. Rather, think of Insert Credit as a mix of hands-on time, informed opinion and intuition.
For the week of July 25, 2011, you should insert credit into: “From Dust.”
The newest downloadable Xbox 360 release in Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade promotion is, in a nutshell, SimCity as filtered through an aboriginal lens. This visionary game comes from Eric Chahi, the pioneering indie developer who made the classic “Another World.”
In “From Dust,” players get to embody a Higher Power known as the Breath, summoned by a wandering tribe of brown folk to shepherd them on a journey to reconnect with the legacy of the Ancients. The Breath earns the ability to manipulate the elements, with knowledge of such transmitted through music. So, you have to unlock songs to create various feats of wonder like creating a force field that shields villages from giant tsunami waves.
You’re essentially creating a series of homelands for the people in “From Dust” and you do that by gaining and wielding power over the elements. So, you’ll move massive mounds of earth to bridge chasms, redirect the flow of water for irrigation or control the spread of fire to raze hostile vegetation. It’s heady being this virtually powerful but you never feel omnipotent. Whether it’s creating seawalls out of molten lava or evaporating all the water on a huge map, there’s too much to do in any given level.
The controls can feel sketchy, and “From Dust” is practically screaming out for the precision of a mouse-&-keyboard set-up. God games made their marl in the earlier waves of PC gaming and “From Dust” feels like it still wants that style of control. But the game’s puzzle-like structure will keep you playing despite the idiosyncrasies of input.
Despite being made with and playable on cutting-edge technology, Chahi’s latest work still manages to feel folkloric in tone. There’s touchy-feely, New Age-isms all over the place but, those aside, “From Dust” feels both fun and profound in totally unique ways.