A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that From Dust is a game in which you take on the role of a god who can manipulate the earth and the elements to help a tribe of men survive and spread across the land. Not all of the men survive -- some will be washed out to sea, and others consumed by fire -- but the camera’s nearly stratospheric location means these deaths are never graphically depicted. Though not explicitly educational, players will likely come away with an appreciation for the powerful roles that nature and religion can play in tribal life.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
Players become a god to groups of tiny tribesmen in FROM DUST, a downloadable game available through Xbox Live Arcade. Through a series of more than a dozen levels, players use powerful abilities that allow them to shift the earth to create natural water dams, move water to help vegetation to flourish, and even relocate molten lava to create rocky barriers that protect against floods. Players will also gain special powers as the game progresses, including the ability to thicken water for brief periods to allow tribesmen to cross and to cause droughts to keep rising waters at bay. Challenge stages offer players the opportunity to hone their godlike skills in situations involving tsunamis and wildfires.
Is it any good?
In a marketplace swamped with shooters and platformers, From Dust stands out as fresh and original. There’s something gratifying about shaping the earth to your will, sometimes completely altering a landscape with simple depressions of a couple of buttons. It can be fun to simply play with the physics system and watch how the game's seemingly intelligent virtual water finds ways of overcoming your attempts to contain it with rocky and earthen dams.
However, your objectives aren't always as satisfying as the world in which they take place. Short levels provide players a series of simple goals -- reach this tower, collect that artifact -- that force players into playing a certain way using specific abilities. You're teased with the tools and potential for experimentation, but rarely given the opportunity to fully exploit them. It's still a lot of fun, but we came away wishing we'd been given the sort of freedom more befitting a god.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about religion in games. Do you enjoy the feeling of power conferred by "god" games that provide players with seemingly omnipotent abilities? Do they alter the way you think about your own spirituality?
Families can also discuss violence in games. How do you feel when you see your tiny tribesmen washed out to see or taken by fire? Are you emotionally affected by their deaths? Do these scenes make you reflect on real-world disasters?