Article by Alex Wiltshire
There aren't many games that can be described as beautiful, but Dyad is one of them. Spinning together a mesmerising blend of music and image with tight and ever-shifting game rules, it's one of the most beguiling and uplifting games I've experienced. And that's speaking as a Rez obsessive.
To describe it risks stripping some of the magic away, so bear with me. A way to start understanding Dyad would be to think of Tempest, in the sense that you're a ship that runs around the inner wall of a tube, and you kind of shoot enemies as you speed towards them.
But with its fondness for psychedelic colour and twisting simple rulesets into complex wholes, it's closer to Jeff Minter's Space Giraffe. But wait! Don't let that scare you! It's a lot more straightforward to play than that game, and anyway, it's actually quite different.
So also think Daytona and Burnout. Think about spending minutes unblinking, your eyes locked on the vanishing point, speeding on the fine threshold between control and chaos, threading your ship through gaps in obstacles that you can only just consciously comprehend. Add a pounding electronica soundtrack that reacts to everything you do, and that's Dyad, more or less.
Every level's different, successively introducing new features and challenges. Some are time trials; in others you have to survive as long as you can, or perform a number of specific actions. First you learn the Hook. This is the basic attack – line up your ship with an enemy and fire, and it'll pull you towards it, increasing your speed. Hook two enemies of the same colour in a row and you'll get a bonus, but you'll be slowed if you crash into any of them. Next, you learn the Graze. Speed through the narrow circle around a Hooked enemy and you'll gain Lance power. Then you'll learn Lancing, a boost that smashes through all enemies; the faster you go, the longer it'll last.
By the time you've started to appreciate all this, you're at the end of the first set of levels. The ruleset only broadens from here. You can create speed-boosting coils of Zip Lines by Hooking two enemies of like colours. If you can Hook Triads accurately enough, they'll also create Zip Lines. Chargers are enemies that, once Hooked, pounce towards you, requiring a smart dodge before you can exploit their Zip Line trail. There's colour-based invulnerability too, and much, much more.
Maybe too much. Dyad is sometimes a little too restless – by the end all its ideas are available in concert, removing some of the precision necessary in earlier levels and subjecting you to maelstroms of colour and enemies that require the invulnerability mechanic to get through. At its best though, Dyad's intoxicating speed and soundscapes are matched with finely articulated challenges that remind you just how rarely games reach for the sublime.