This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Right Square Bracket Left Square Bracket's downloadable PS3 racer Dyad, which reviews describe as "one of the best pure arcade experiences to come along in years." Dyad currently earns a score of 87 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
Joystiq's Richard Mitchell gives Dyad4.5 out of 5 stars. "To the outside observer, Dyad appears to be little more than a rhythmic, psychedelic mishmash of shapes, colors and sounds, a whirling mass of indecipherable technology," he admits. "To the player -- to the one who comprehends what's happening on the screen -- Dyad is magic."
"As a particle of light zipping through a tube toward some unknown destination, you avoid colliding with other particles while simultaneously trying to 'hook' onto them," Mitchell explains. "Each kind of particle offers a different benefit when hooked. Certain particles, for example, offer a small speed boost when hooked in pairs."
The game's mechanics build upon themselves at a satisfying rate. "Dyad adds new layers of mechanics to the game with each level," Mitchell notes. "This is done slowly enough that it never becomes overly difficult, but quickly enough that it never becomes boring. There were so many mechanics at play in the final levels that it was hard to believe I was still playing the same uncomplicated game I started a few hours ago."
Mitchell continues: "There's a lot happening in Dyad -- enough so that onlookers may question whether you're controlling it at all -- but in all its visual and aural splendor lies a simple, stimulating experience that's difficult to put down. Dyad manages to create a beautiful synthesis of music, visual design and gameplay mechanics, and it does so without missing a beat."
Arthur Gies at Polygon scores Dyad at 9 out of 10. "You'd be forgiven for thinking that Dyad is the latest sort of, well, let's say, experiential experiment to appear on the PlayStation 3, a successor perhaps to Flower or Flow," he begins. "That would be the wrong impression. Dyad is a hardcore, score-chasing arcade game -- one of the most pure successors to the form since Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2."
"Strictly speaking, Dyad could be considered a racing game," Gies continues. "There are levels where you'll want to speed to the end as quickly as possible, and there are courses to navigate with hazards to impede progress. But Dyad isn't about taking tight turns or figuring out handling or physics models. It's all about twitch gameplay and racking up a score."
The leaderboard aspect is especially compelling, Gies explains: "Online leaderboards aren't new, but the manner in which Dyad directly pits you against everyone else is productivity poison. I found myself in a war of attrition with just a few people on the leaderboards. I didn't need to be number one, but I absolutely needed to get a higher score than those people."
"Dyad isn't perfect -- there are courses that cross the line from confusing to inscrutable, and the more pure race courses aren't as fun as the other game types," Gies writes. "But these are minor quibbles amidst a sea of light, sound, and fun. While Dyad's music and visuals more than live up to all the hype laid upon it, playing it is where the real surprise lies. Dyad is one of the best pure arcade experiences to come along in years, and for players who fall prey to the siren song of its leaderboards, it might just devour their summer."
Game Informer's Tim Turi rates Dyad at 8.25 out of 10. "One of the boldest epilepsy warnings Iíve ever seen introduces Dyad, and for good reason," he notes. "Dyad looks like a high definition audio visualizer. Lines of vibrant neon stretch down an infinite wormhole as the kaleidoscopic background morphs. The action is confusing and chaotic to onlookers, but controlling the high-speed madness is mesmerizing."
He continues: "Dyad is a series of increasingly difficult challenges that ease you into a world of electronic trance music and wild visuals. Progressing from the first to final challenge is comparable to gradually moving from a wading pool to the sea in The Perfect Storm."
Turi warns that Dyad's short length may be a turnoff, however. "The game only took me about three hours to complete, but the replay factor comes from refining your skills," he explains. "I didnít feel a strong urge to revisit past challenges, but gamers with a taste for overstimulation and speed-of-light racing will devour extra trophy objectives, like lancing 50 enemies as fast as possible."
"Dyad is not a pure racing game, but sometimes I aimed for speed," Turi concludes. "Itís not quite a rhythm game, but the steady beat and ethereal enemy sound effects influenced my pace. Dyad falls into a genre gray zone that makes it hard to define. Playing for long stretches feels like sensory over-indulgence, which could be good or bad depending on your sensitivity. No matter how busy the onscreen action becomes, Dyad is consistently entertaining and rarely frustrating."