Review: DUSK ’82

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I could launch into a big thing about the dangers of demakes here, how easy it is to strip core elements in the effort to cram a game into a more nostalgic package. I could, but I think it’s truer to say that this isn’t really a demake. I don’t want to beat the semantics to death but if you’re here looking for anything even approximating the action of DUSK, you’re not going to find it. This is DUSK ground up into a fine paste and squeezed into the entrails of Chip’s Challenge, to make a clever if tonally-bizarre sausage. I’m not sure that analogy held up all the way through, but DUSK ’82 does, as long as you’re clear on what you’re getting into.

DUSK ’82 follows a similar story to DUSK, which is almost entirely irrelevant because the plot is that there are monsters, and the guy shoots the monsters. Here, this happens across 30 levels of extremely lo-fi tiles representing walls, trees, guns, bullets, monsters, and the guy. There is an exit somewhere, and to open the exit you must kill all the monsters. Usually this accomplished by shooting (thematic consistency!) but in the more clever levels, you’ll need to engineer situations where foes step on land mines, shoot each other, walk into industrial presses, and so on. This is where the puzzle element of the game comes in, everything you do is turn-based, and you have to use your turns wisely to maneuver yourself and others into the right configuration for victory.

Familiar elements from DUSK appear as puzzle tools, the weapons and keys and medkits being turned into usable inventory items. Enemies and obstacles have different responses to your different weapons, and since you can only carry one item at a time, you may be swapping several times to get through some of the levels. There are even a few levels that make particularly clever use of your single-item capacity, turning discarded items into their own obstacles to overcome. Really that’s the kind of thing that makes DUSK ’82 worthwhile, the fact that the puzzles can be pretty clever and challenging as you get further in.

It took me about 2 hours to beat all 30 levels in this lean package, and I’d call it a good time overall. The graphics are exactly what they need to be, and the sound design takes just enough from DUSK to impart a little of its gloom and energy. I didn’t find any secrets on the way to the end, but there are bonus items that add to your score so going for records is probably the main thrust of the replay value. Well, that and the built-in level editor and Steam Workshop support. I can’t say this is the kind of game that I’d spend hours making custom levels for, but it’s certainly there if you want it. And maybe that’s the best summation of DUSK ’82, it’s there if you want this specific shape of retro puzzling. The DUSK branding isn’t much more than window dressing, but it pretties up a sufficiently solid puzzler.

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