There’s an overused stereotype that paints the videogamer as a recluse, hunched on the sofa with the curtains drawn, dead eyes fixed on the glow of the television screen, the only sign of life being the insect-twitch of thumbs on joypad. As a committed gamer, this is something I would ordinarily contest wholeheartedly, but in considering Right Square Bracket Left Square Bracket’s (or ][) mind-melting Dyad there’s a very strong chance that that was me. Though the sun was shining outside, there I was sitting motionless on the sofa, curtains drawn, eyes barely blinking with my mind in very real danger of being sucked into the TV before exploding into a grisly fountain of neon-tinged psychedelia. Dyad, you see, wants to mess with your mind and there’s every chance that you’ll be more than willing to let it.
Though wearing its influences on its sleeve, Dyad is very difficult to tie down to any particular genre; part visualiser, part racer, part puzzler, part shooter, part rhythm action, it blurs genres as readily as it blurs all manner of eye-searing, spaced-out visuals across the screen. The most obvious source of inspiration is the work of a certain Jeff Minter – gaming’s very own ageing hippy whose love of crazed, trippy, superfast shooters is well documented. Of all of his games, it is Tempest that springs to mind when paying Dyad, sharing as it does that game’s now iconic tunnel setting and ever encroaching enemies. There’s also a hint of Tetzuya Mizaguchi’s Rez, as your actions unfold with explosions of light and sound, and the sheer speed of the gameplay is reminiscent of Wipeout at its most face-melting speeds.
And yet, Dyad is very different from all of the above; for starters there is no shooting – in the traditional sense anyway – and though some levels may follow a time-trial template, it can hardly be described as a racer. Instead, it strives for the abstract, crafting a world that could only exist in a computer game or within the sub-atomic world of the Large Hadron Collider; there is very little here, if anything, that is recognisably from the real world, but this does not stop it gradually forming a cohesive and readable environment as you get to grips with its concisely structured audio and visual cues.
As with the very best examples of interactive entertainment, Dyad is best experienced first hand, as truly capturing its eccentricities with the written word can’t help but fall short. Despite this fact, its rule-sets are actually very rigid. You take control of a squirming, amorphous and curiously elegant blob that remains permanently fixed to the bottom of the screen, as you rotate the tunnel around with the analogue stick or dpad. Things start simply enough as you travel slowly down the tunnel, tapping the X button to fire out arches of light that, should they connect with the coloured orbs floating your way, result in a burst of speed. Known as ‘hooking’, this is the first of a number of mechanics that you must master should you ever stand a chance of making your presence truly felt on the online leaderboards.
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