Dyad is going to get a lot of attention for its sublime audio and visual presentation, and rightfully so. It’s not often that you get to pilot an indistinguishable cephalopod through a kaleidoscope tube at a thousand miles an hour. While this certainly serves as a bulletproof invitation to take a closer look, it’s also (admirably) not the only card Dyad has up its sleeve. As it turns out Dyad layers new ideas and fresh mechanics at a pace comparable to its breakneck speed, and continues on indifferent to those whom might not be able piece it all together. For the uninitiated Dyad might feel like a cool toy, but for those who can appreciate it beyond its rich presentation, this game something special indeed.
Vague allusions to Tempest 2000, Rez, or parts of Wipeout might seem valid at first, but a thorough exploration of Dyad’s content reveals little in common with its supposed peers. The initial premise revolves around lining your avatar up with enemies scattered around the tube and “hooking” them in order to pull yourself faster and faster forward. The method by which one completes a level is in a constant state of flux; you might need to hook a set number of pairs of different colored enemies or merely accelerate down and around the tube as fast as possible. Or you might need to collect Invincibility spheres and collide with similarly colored enemies while doing your best to create and ride Zip lines while only employing Lance as a last resort.
You see, Dyad has a passionate reluctance to create any instance where a player might feel bored. Almost every one of Dyad’s twenty seven levels not only has something new for you to do, it also employs much of what you’ve learned on the way there. After developing an appreciation of pairs of enemies you’ll learn about Lancing, which is best defined as a hyper speed button dependent on successfully crashing through lines of enemies. From there it’s all about creating Zip Lines to facilitate speed and then the how to correctly manage Etchers to further exploit that process. Whether you’re trying to stay alive, reach a goal time, or collect objects, Dyad’s mechanics are always in harmony with its goals.
The tie that binds is Dyad’s preference to associate success with speed, meaning, with a few deliberate exceptions, the better you do, the faster you go, and the crazier everything in Dyad looks in the process. I’m struggling not to fall prey to some sort of hyperbolic nonsense when describing the rush of exhilaration that takes over upon a successful run in Dyad, but it wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that at Dyad’s metaphorical 88 miles-per-hour, you’re going to see some serious shit. Whenever I would start to do well Dyad would engage warp speed and I would inevitably resort to some primitive state of mumbling to myself, clenching teeth, and denying the impulse to admire the gorgeous reflection of that process on the screen.
Perhaps the most surprising thing is that you’ll find yourself wielding considerable agency over what is transpiring on screen. If you would have dumped me in one of the higher levels without context I wouldn’t even be able to relay exactly what I was looking at. With the careful development of a competent skill set on the way there, it becomes second nature to parse through the hysteria. In this regard Dyad called to mind the pure sense of wonder that would take over when I was six and playing Nintendo games in front of a little television. I was completely absorbed and simultaneously amazed that I was affecting the outcome of what was transpiring on screen. Dyad does this to me as an adult. Constantly. I almost can’t believe the speed at which it seems to be moving, and I’m equally astounded that I’m any damn good at it.
“Good” is actually a relative term in Dyad. Qualifications for passing a level vary, however your one to three star ranking at the end remains constant. One star is usually not a problem, but obtaining the full three requires sufficient mastery of that particular level’s new lesson. Furthermore, earning three stars opens up a separate trophy objective for each level. These are extremely difficult and, along with the global ranking system that carries time into the milliseconds, where you’ll indulge in Dyad beyond the initial run through each level. Or at least that’s the intention as Dyad’s relatively high concept might be a turnoff for those who might not click with it in the first place. Additionally, each level in Dyad also offers a remix mode. Kind of like a toy (and Everyday Shooter), remix offers complete control over the audio and visual feedback of each level.
And, of course, there are those visuals. Dyad effortlessly deals explosions of colors at every instance, creating imagery that either suggests you’re either going back in time to save Sarah Connor or experiencing the desired effects of your preferred psychotropic substance. In any case what’s most impressive is how Dyad overwhelms the senses exclusively through abstracts of light and color. Child of Eden, for example, was vibrant and stunning but still had one foot in tangible reality. Dyad evokes a similar sentiment, but doesn’t share any reluctance at embracing the fact that it’s a videogame. It celebrates the medium and the simple purity of, to put it blatantly, hitting buttons on a controller while staring at a television
Dyad’s sound design, while not as overly radiant as its visuals, is equally important to its presentation. Each level boasts a brand new musical sequence, most of which is unabashedly electronic with hints of percussive instruments piled on top. Both the music and the accompanying sound effects are symbiotic to Dyad’s gameplay. I have no idea how they did this but the music dynamically shifts with performance, keeping the melody at pace with your progress and literally never skipping a beat. This, along with the unique sound effects for every mechanic, is a great method of giving feedback to the player. If Dyad doesn’t feel like you’re driving a car at a hundred miles an hour down the autobahn then there’s probably room for improvement, and beyond an introductory explanation of basic concepts this is wholly realized through Dyad’s potential for sensory overload.