Dyad Review: Eye of the Duck

The word “dyad” means a great many specific things across different fields, but those definitions are all bound by a simple similarity: in all cases, a dyad is a pair. Whether it be a pair of sister chromatids, a pair of musical notes, or a pair of people. The new PSN-exclusive racer Dyad is aptly named.

Calling it a racer is selling this game short. It’s more of a racer/action game/puzzle game/music visualizer. You control a ship of some sort that travels down a tube, and you have completely analog control when moving inside it. At the start, the ship moves slowly. You gain speed by latching onto “enemies.” These are mainly small beacons of different colored light. In Dyad, you don’t hit a gas pedal; you fling yourself forward. It’s the same basic concept utilized in Just Cause 2‘s grappling hook system. The farther away from the point that you hooked, the faster you’ll travel.

One of Dyad‘s greatest strengths is how it manages to constantly add wrinkles to the gameplay throughout its (admittedly short) play time. There are 26 levels in total, plus a special, final level, and it took me around two and a half hours to breeze through it. There’s a star ranking system to keep you coming back, as well as a well-implemented leaderboard. In a stroke of genius, every level has a designated “trophy” objective, which unlocks once you complete it normally with three stars. It’s a brutally difficult, but immensely clever way to tie trophy support into the game.

On a surface level, the game’s name could refer to any number of things. The constant theme of linking together two similarly colored enemies, perhaps. But for me, it was indicative of a much deeper, overwhelming connection between this game and its player. When you play Dyad for long enough, you are no longer on earth. You are in that light tunnel.

I think that video games are largely appealing because of their rules. There’s a great joy that comes from stepping into a world you don’t recognize and figuring out how it ticks. Dyad is a game of strict rules, but it is never binary. It’s alive in a way few games are; beautiful and chaotic on the outside, but inviting and calm on the inside. It’s not enough to just watch someone play this game. You must play it for yourself to understand how soothing and captivating it is. There’s no game I can recall that more perfectly captures the essence of a dream, mechanically rather than thematically. Whilst playing Dyad, I’d often adhere to its inclusive world, as time skipped by without notice.

The paradox of this game, then, is that as it becomes more difficult, it becomes less involving. The leaderboard chasing and trophy challenges are extremely well done for those who are interested in them. I am not one of those people. I wouldn’t trade my time with the game for anything, but my attempts to go back and challenge myself more have ended in nothing but frustration. My favorite level of the game comes at the very end. You cannot lose, and a great deal of it you don’t even really play, but it remains one of the most perfect video game endings I’ve had the honor to play. For many, it may be the opposite. They will relish what high-level play in this game demands.

Ultimately, I can’t stay frustrated at Dyad for too long. It provided me with over two hours of transcendence, and I’d gladly pay another 15 dollars to experience it for the first time all over again.