Dusk Review: A Devilish Delight
Okay, let me save you some time; If you are in any way a fan of old school FPS games such as Quake, Doom, Wolfenstein, etc. and have yet to play Dusk, then stop reading right now for a moment, pick up your Switch, and download it immediately.
Done? Good, now whilst that downloads in the background, read on to find out why Dusk is worth your hard-earned time and money.
A Faithful Throwback
I mentioned those classics at the top of the review because I think anyone who has played those titles instantly knows how a game is going to feel upon reading such comparisons. Dusk, developed and created by David Szymanski and published by New Blood Interactive, is a retro-style FPS that was initially released on PC back in 2018. Unfortunately, being exclusive to PC, the original release passed me by, so thankfully, it has at long last received its Switch port after being announced for Nintendo’s hybrid system three years ago.
Immediately upon picking up Dusk and playing through the first level, it’s clear that you’re playing something pretty special. I’ve played plenty of Doom and Quake clones in my time, many of which never quite nail the feel of the greats that inspired them. However, it’s evident from the get-go that the creative minds behind Dusk truly understand what made their inspirations great to play; and that can only be described as the feel of the gunplay.
I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that Dusk is one of the best feeling FPS games I’ve played in years. It totally nails that feeling of momentum, pace, and snappy movement that made the granddaddies of the genre such a joy to play back in the day. It strikes an almost flawless balance between pace and responsiveness that so few FPS games possess these days, and I would say that id Software’s work on Doom 2016 and Doom Eternal are the only recent examples of the genre that are on a par with how well Dusk executes upon its vision.
Gunplay is on par with the movement in terms of excellence. Again, to go back to Doom and Quake, the weapons in those titles all carry weight and kick that is instantly recognizable and incredibly difficult to emulate. Dusk manages it, however. Whether you are using Dusk’s shotgun, super shotgun, or heavy hitters such as the rivet gun, they all feel excellent to fire. The weapon selection and the satisfying way in which each handle, instantly teleported me back to simpler times, where all that mattered in an FPS was fantastic gunplay and amazing, labyrinth-like level design chock full of secrets.
Impeccable Level Design
I mentioned level design because, and you’ll notice there is a theme here with my praise, it completely nails the era of FPS the developers were pulling from. Levels are maze-like with branching paths, closets chock full of enemies, health and ammo pick-ups dotted around, and an abundance of secrets to find.
Each level plays out in a wonderfully simplistic fashion also, with you generally just having to find a combination of colored keys that you need to work your way through the level to reach an exit. Any fan of retro FPS games will likely breathe a sigh of relief upon reading that Dusk largely retains this simple formula from the genre’s golden age, as those games worked by refraining from adding in complex objectives or mechanics, in a way that allows the gunplay to sing.
During my playthrough, the majority of levels only took around 10-15 minutes to complete, which is definitely worth flagging as this makes Dusk a title perfectly suited to the short burst play sessions which the Switch easily facilitates.
A Hellish Narrative
I’m hesitant to delve too much into story territory here as Dusk goes to some weird and horrifying places. You take control of the protagonist, who finds himself trapped in a building in a dilapidated barn. For the first of Dusk’s three acts, you won’t really be provided with much narrative context as to what in the hell is going on, however as you progress deeper into the game’s campaign, it becomes hugely clear that there is more to this little town you find yourself in than meets the eye. You’ll encounter hooded cultists pelting you with fireballs, chainsaw-wielding maniacs, demonic goats, firearm-wielding scarecrows – and that’s all in the game’s first act.
Things only get crazier from there, as the narrative threads into Lovecraftian conspiracy territory that navigates locations and themes that are heavily inspired by classic horror cinema and video games alike. The third act, in particular, is a real treat in terms of its location, which I won’t spoil, but it brings everything to a close in a spectacularly crazy fashion. It’s a title that contains surprises at every corner, and with how short the chapters within each act are, I frequently found myself hanging on for “just one more level” to see what weird and terrifying surprises awaited in the next bite-sized chunk of hell I entered into.
Low Poly, High Intensity
The art direction is just as stylish as everything else on offer, with the developers opting for a low poly style that instantly brings Quake to mind. Having just played Resident Evil: Village, I found this somewhat off-putting at first, but honestly, it fits Dusk’s tone perfectly. Not only does it nail the retro vibe, but there is actually something deeply unsettling in witnessing these dark and dingy environments and their demonic inhabitants in such a basic art style.
I recently reviewed Corpse Party for HPP, and in that review, I mentioned that the 16-bit art style really works there as it leaves a lot to the imagination and lets your mind fill in the gaps. I think the same goes for Dusk’s art direction, as the low poly look automatically triggers your brain into doing the rest of the work.
It wouldn’t be right to conclude this review without also giving a shoutout to the stellar performance on show here. This is a flawless port, and you can really tell that the time between Dusk’s original 2018 PC release, and the 2021 Switch launch, was spent ensuring that Switch owners got the full, uncompromised Dusk experience. Image quality, whether playing docked or handheld, is razor-sharp, and the game seems to keep a constant 60fps, which is essential when being chased down by the endless hellish hordes of enemies that you’ll find yourself bombarded with.
Naturally, the simplistic art style probably made optimizing for the Switch somewhat easier, but that shouldn’t discredit the amazing work on display.
It is a devilish delight to navigate Dusk’s hellish environments and labyrinth-like levels, all whilst laying waste to its army of twisted enemies with its second to none gunplay. Not only is this title a fitting tribute to the games that inspired it, but it’s also something that manages to feel entirely relevant to the modern era due to its impeccable gameplay and emphasis on providing a simple but intriguing story. So if you are in any way nostalgic for retro FPS experiences, or for that matter, just a lover of FPS games in general, then do yourself a favor and check out Dusk on the Switch.
Final Verdict 5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC; Publisher: New Blood Interactive; Developer: David Szymanski; Players: 1; Released: October 28, 2021 (on Nintendo Switch); MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: A review copy was given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.