Dust: An Elysian Tail Makes Me Proud of My Right ForearmS

Earlier this year a visit to Epic Games in North Carolina inspired me to forever etch a combat-ready green rabbit on my person. The art I used as reference for the vibrant tattoo was created by independent animator turned game developer Don Dodrill, the man behind the unbelievable 2009 XNA Dream Build Play competition winner Dust: An Elysian Tail.

Last week I got a chance to play an all-too-brief demo of the upcoming Xbox Live Arcade action platformer, and I'm pleased to report I don't feel like scraping off several layers of skin.

Dean "Noogy" Dodrill is a top-notch animator, which explains why Dust looks so damn fine in motion. The Elysian Tail property, represented by both the game an animated movie, are completely Dodrill's babies. While countless professional animators toil under the yoke of creative constraints, he's living the dream.

And Dust: An Elysian Tail plays like a dream.

I'm not exactly clear on the story of the game — I know the protagonist, Dust, is out to liberate a village and uncover his past with the aid of a magic sword and a tiny fairy cat thing named Fidget. I'm sure there's much more meat to it, and if not at least the dialogue is amusing.

But dialog and story were the last thing on my mind as I dove headlong into Dust's wonderfully fluid combat system.

Swinging Dust's sword is effective enough. Fidget's magic bullets are just sad. But combine the whirlwind-like Dust Storm attack with those ineffectual bullets and suddenly the screen is filled with deadly projectiles, enemies are flying about uncontrollably, and the player feels a supreme sense of satisfaction.

It's flashy and fantastic and never slows down. It's truly hard to believe this is a title that stemmed from Microsoft's XNA program. If I had to wager a guess, I'd say Dodrill is made of some sort of magic.

Years ago Dean Dodrill helped define a green rabbit so precious to me I choose it for permanent prominent display on my person. If Dust: An Elysian Tail turns out as good as my brief demo indicated, Dodrill might lay claim to more of my epidermis.