A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Dust: An Elysian Tale wasn't created with educational intent, and we don't recommend it for learning.
Themes of duty and altruism permeate the game's story. Play is largely focused on fighting, but the violence is wholly unrealistic and relatively mild compared to that of many other side-scrolling action games. The game's intent seems not to glamorize violence, but instead tell a tale in which mild, cartoonish violence plays a role.
Positive Role Models
Players take on the role of Dust, a young man with no memory but a compulsion to help people in need. His companions include a cat-like creature with a bit of an attitude but a good heart, and a talking sword that attempts to guide him along a path of righteousness on his journey. The three engage in plenty of fighting, but only when attacked by the game's mindless fantasy monsters.
Ease of Play
Four levels of difficulty -- including a casual mode that confers no penalties for perishing -- provide players of diverse abilities a suitable level of challenge. The game's controls are pleasantly accessible, with frequent onscreen tutorials and button cues to help kids learn how to play.
Violence & Scariness
Players use a sentient sword to cleave through hordes fantastical, vaguely animal-like creatures described in the game as "monsters" and "thugs." Impact is marked by a brief flash of light. Combat depicts no blood and no gore; enemies simply tumble and disappear when defeated.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dust: An Elysian Tale is a download-only game available for Xbox 360 that offers up an action-packed experience suitable for older tweens. There's a good deal of sword-based combat here, but it's cartoonish and mild; the game's non-human enemies simply tumble away and disappear when defeated. The graphics in most levels are generally bright, colorful, and almost dream-like, and make a good match for the light-hearted narrative, which features a young protagonist and allies who are clearly good guys intent on helping others.
Is It Any Good?
Dust: An Elysian Tale may be worth playing simply to take in its gorgeous anime-style graphics. The game begins with a run through a lush green forest filled with beautifully animated animals, including families of deer frolicking together and rabbits washing their cute faces with their paws. Things get a little darker as the game progresses, but the game's unique beauty persists.
The action, unfortunately, is a bit ho-hum. A variety of moves and attacks are unlocked over time, but most players will likely just mash buttons to plough through the game's baddies and wind up finding battles a bit monotonous. It's a shame that the imagination and care that went into the game's presentation didn't continue on through to play. Instead, Dust: An Elysian Tale is a visual feast with a mediocre core.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.