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Dystoria Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . While a little repetitive at times, Dystoria has a solid concept that benefits from great gameplay and a compelling science fiction story. It's lacking mission variety and the cheap deaths will frustrate even the best players, but Tri-Coastal Games has done a lot right in their debut release. Dystoria is a fun play on the formula with tons of content and a cool story. I can't wait to see what this small team does next. Rating: 71%
Dystoria
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  • Review Score:

  • B
The Last Starfighter is a 1984 science fiction classic about a video game expert who gets whisked into space to help protect the world from alien invaders. This simple wish fulfillment story clearly connected with a lot of people, including the makers of Dystoria, who have created a setup so similar that they even put the fictional arcade cabinet in the same exact spot. The end result may not be as cheesy as the thirty year old movie, but I have a hunch this vehicular shoot-em-up will stick with people all the same.

You play an everyday video game junkie who gets abducted by aliens and forced to compete in a series of trials. The kidnapper claims to be something of a gardener, an unknown creature scouring the universe in an attempt to weed out the weakest links. In order to assess the worthiness of humankind, the alien is making you fight through thirty challenging stages, each filled with neon enemies packing lots of firepower.


Playing like a cross between Descent and Spectre, Dystoria has us zipping around huge maze-like levels that are floating through space. The trick here is that our little craft can not only hover above the ground, but stick to walls, ceilings and everything in between. This allows us to traverse these complicated stages from every possible angle, giving us a dizzying amount of freedom you rarely see in this style of game.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that the aliens are a predictable lot. With the exception of a boss fight at the very end, there are only two types of stages you'll need to contend with. Most of the levels have you rushing around and looking for three hidden orbs. All you need to do is find those orbs and open up the portal to the next stage, all without getting shot down by the enemy forces. The other type of level sees you turning the tables, forced to kill every alien before the portal opens up. You'll repeat these same two tasks throughout your adventure, which can make Dystoria feel a bit tedious at times.

As repetitive as this can be, I will say that it controls well. I had a lot of fun hovering over every part of the levels, and some of the stages prove to be incredibly complicated. You'll have to open up doors, bomb glass barriers and move parts of the stages in order to locate all three orbs. And while you're doing that, enemies will be flying in from all sides. The various hovercrafts may look and handle differently, but they are quick and responsive. That's not something I can say about all games in the genre, as was demonstrated a few weeks ago in my Planet 2000 review.

Dystoria (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Unfortunately, Dystoria does have its share of problems. As I mentioned already, it doesn't have a lot of variety and you'll be asked to do the same two things over and over. It also can be dizzying in some frustrating ways, especially in the more complicated levels towards the end. The 3D map looks cool, but it's a bit unruly to use and not as helpful as I would have liked.

The real problem comes down to the enemies, which have a bad habit of hovering over you just out of range of your shot. There are a few little guys who will immediately start draining your shields, giving you almost no opportunity to strike back. You can't aim up and down, so battling a bad guy that's stationed above you is a recipe for disaster. This is especially frustrating in some of the "defeat all enemies" missions, since you'll often be attacked from directions you can't see or counter. This led to a number of annoying cheap deaths that were completely outside of my control. The fact that you can be killed before the level even starts suggests there's something wrong with the balance.

But even when I wanted to throw the controller across the room, I was still invested because of the storyline. The game is good about making you doubt the alien's intentions, and you'll occasionally get messages from the outside world that suggest there's more at play than you realize. I loved the intrigue, but was a little disappointed by how it all played out. I was waiting for a twist that never came. There are some compelling ideas in the story that aren't fully explored.

Dystoria (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

I also wish the developers would have done more with the visuals. The game has a specific look that is striking at first, but doesn't change much throughout the adventure. Apart from the tile occasionally change covers and a new planet popping up in the distance, you'll see a lot of the same designs repeated through all thirty stages. The same goes for the bad guys, which aren't as exciting or interesting as the rest of the game. Thankfully, the level designs are pretty great, but I wish there was more done with the visuals.

While a little repetitive at times, Dystoria has a solid concept that benefits from great gameplay and a compelling science fiction story. It's lacking mission variety and the cheap deaths will frustrate even the best players, but Tri-Coastal Games has done a lot right in their debut release. Dystoria is a fun play on the formula with tons of content and a cool story. I can't wait to see what this small team does next.
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