Each level in Dyad only lasts a few minutes.
There is a black hole at the center of the screen, framed by a technicolor tie-dye ether. That ether is framed by your television, and your television is framed by an outflow of music that fills your room like bright light. You control a nebulous squid that adheres to the inner wall of the ether, flowing forward and inward to the back of your television. It is fast and silky. It engages the most primitive part of your brain that can only process beauty. The part that predates appreciation and awe.
In your path, there are nodes that can block you if you hit them full on. They propel you forward if you navigate them correctly, or align them in a specific pattern. Some can become aggressive and turn on you, while others only aid you in a psychedelic journey of almost limitless acceleration.
Outside of the game, there is nothing. You careen toward an invisible horizon with your eyes, your ears, your hands, your thudding heart, and your animal brain. These parts inventory the wash of sensory stimuli at once. You become enveloped by the design and cloud of aesthetics, and the controller in your hands is the only tangible object you’re able to notice. As you complete a level, the rest of life becomes something and resumes. The abstract part of your brain that makes you human takes over again. You feel exhaustion, and you can’t quite determine why.
Each level posits a goal. Sometimes you race to infinity, and sometimes you romp to infinity until your ribbon tentacles have managed to activate the requisite number of nodes, or patterns of nodes. As you complete each fraction of the game, your newfound knowledge becomes a foundational part of the next goal. You build your skill set slowly, and the game become a progressively sophisticated apparatus. Your experience becomes your coach, and the only thing you can really ever remember is how it all works.
I was sitting at my parents’ house when I clicked on my console and began playing. It is quieter there, in the forested suburbs of Seattle, than my apartment downtown. The light is more natural and sounds come less frequently from machines. Oftentimes when I have to review a game, I’ll pack up my system, grab a spare shirt, and head home to split time between marathon stretches of gaming and home-cooked meals. This time, my brothers were home from college.
I was almost finished with Dyad in a short hour and a half. I was flying through levels with that ether pulling tight around me like a cycling kaleidoscope, and the entrancing thump of the music had reached heartbeat pace. Nodules were pinpoints of solid light stretched into brush strokes by my speed and my ribbon tentacles struck like snakes at everything on the screen. I wasn’t even calculating button presses anymore, just tapping everything on my controller comically, like a caricature gamer kid in a television show.
When the black hole lit up and filled with technicolor tie dye, I had finished the level.
“Huh? One second…”
I jerked away from the screen and saw my brother standing there.
“I’ve been trying to talk to you for like five minutes. What are you playing?”
“Sorry. Uh, it’s- called Dyad, I think. One of those new indie games. I have to beat it today.” I selected the next level and watched the timer count down from three.
“Oh, I’ve been watching it. It looks intense. Do you have to review it? Is it any fun?”
“Huh? Hang on. I’m not…”
Dyad is a notable title within its genre
This review is based on a PlayStation 3 copy of the game provided by the publisher
Filed Under: Indie Review Rhythm
About the Author:
James Hawkins is the founder of Bit Creature. He's a published poet, dabbling sportswriter, and former Senior Editor of Village Voice Media's Joystick Division.
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