Dust: A Tale of the Wired West

(Originally published in the November 1995 edition of The Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas Computer Currents magazine. Reprinted here with permission of the author.)

by Joe DeRouen

In DUST: A TALE OF THE WIRED WEST, Cyberflix (whose other releases include the prize-winning futuristic CD-ROM adventure titles LUNICUS and JUMP RAVEN) spins an interactive tale in the flavor of the old movie westerns from days gone past. When the game starts, you find yourself in the year 1882, alone and in a little nowhere town somewhere in New Mexico called Diamondback.

Worse than finding yourself alone in this little town is realizing that you're without the essentials of life in the wild west; a gun, cold hard cash, and a horse. Add to that the fact that you're plumb tired and need to catch a quick forty winks somewhere, and you'll find you're not having a very good day at all. Soon, as the game progresses, you'll learn that you're being hunted by a mysterious stranger known only as "The Kid." If you can survive for five days alone in this shabby little town, you might even make it out alive.

While you're trying to survive, explore the local storefronts. Visit the saloon, (flirt with Ruby O'Dowdle, the redheaded saloon girl, while you're at it) play a couple hands of poker, and maybe even search for a lost silver mine or two. There's plenty to do in the little town of Diamondback, and lots of roads down which a man may choose to travel.

If this sounds just like the plot of one of those old westerns you saw as a kid, you're not far from the mark. The scenario has certainly been done before. As a movie, it would have been just one among many dozens. As an adventure game, though, Dust is imaginative and refreshing. The small town of Diamondback is served up in rich, visually stunning graphics, the soundtrack is a match for any movie, and the character interaction is among the very best for any game of its kind.

When you converse with one of the town's thirty inhabitants (and the interface makes this very easy to do) it isn't like talking to the usual cast of robots. They actually seem as though they're leading their own lives. What you say to them affects how they react to you later and occasionally how others react to you as well. No matter what you do, the characters go on with their own little lives; moving about town, performing their jobs, and interacting with the town independent of your own actions. That's a hard illusion to create, but Dust does a bang up job of doing it.

Part of the reason that Dust looks so good and works so well is DreamFactory. DreamFactory is a new set of multimedia-authoring tools created by Bill Appleton, the president of Cyberflix. The development package contains eight specialized authoring tools that replicate various functions found on a movie set - SetConstruction, PropDepartment, SoundTrack, CentralCasting, BlueScreen, FlatPainter, HeadShot, and MovieEditor. Each of these game creation tools directs a very specific part of the game - from how a character's face looks while she's talking to the use of "hot" buttons to which the players gets into and out of various game sequences - giving the designers precision control over what actually goes into the final product. DreamFactory is an amazing game creation tool, used to full effect in Dust.

About the only drawback to the game is speed. The lush graphics, intense soundtrack, and character interaction doesn't mesh as well as it should with your system, and the results are often a slowed down performance. Graphics are slow to load from the disk and this can result in more than a little frustration as you wait for something to happen. Though the game claims it can be run with a 33MHz 486 system with 8 Meg of RAM, a more realistic recommendation would be a Pentium with at least 12 Meg of RAM.

Despite the speed problems, Dust is an excellent game, worthy to stand beside titles like MYST and PHANTASMAGORIA on your CD bookshelf. While the setting isn't all that huge (Diamondback is a pretty small town) it's fleshed out extremely well. The puzzles are all tough though not impossible to solve. If you're looking for a challenging, engaging game to take you through your holiday vacation time, Dust'll do the trick and then some.

The bare minimum requirements for Dust are an IBM compatible 486 DX 33Mhz or better, 8 MB of RAM, Super VGA graphics with a 256-color display or better, CD-ROM drive, hard drive with at least 30 MB free space, DOS 3.3 or better, Windows 3.1, Windows NT 3.51, or Windows 95, and Sound Blaster or compatible sound card. Dust retails for $59.95 and is available for the MacIntosh as well as for the Windows PC.

Copyright (c) 1995, 1996, Joe DeRouen. All rights reserved.

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File last modified on September 19th, 1996