DUX 1.5 Review

DUXDUX 1.5 (Available exclusively on the SEGA Dreamcast)
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Shoot ’em Up
Publisher: Hucast
Developer KTX Software / Hucast
Release Date: April 22nd, 2013

Parent Talk: As DUX is an indie release it has not been officially rated by the ESRB, but that’s where I come in. This is a horizontal spaceship shoot ’em up. It features no blood, gore, strong language, or suggestive themes. Basically all it has is animated violence in the sense of blowing up millions of enemy ships in glorious 2D. If the ESRB were to rate DUX it would garner an E for everyone rating.

Plays Like: DUX draws its inspiration from the legendary R-Type, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You pilot a small spaceship and destroy everything in your path, while traversing dangerous terrain. You make use of a protective Power Pod that’s attached to the front of your ship, and not only absorbs enemy bullets, but can also be shot out in front of the craft to destroy enemies. It’s pure arcade fun.

Review Basis: Hucast was super cool and sent us a review copy. I’d love to say I was able to finish the game, but if I had to wait to for that I’d never get the review out. I made it to stage five of six, so I’m almost there. These games require weeks of devotion in order to finish, and by the time this review goes up odds are I’ll be working my way through the final stage.

Note: I have never played through the original version of DUX so this revised version is my introduction to the series. Hucast recently had a successful Kickstarter for Redux: Dark Matters, which is a complete overhaul and remake of DUX and will be available on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Steam. Hucast is even making 1,000 copies exclusively for the Kickstarter backers.

Whoever says the Dreamcast is dead clearly doesn’t pay any attention to the home-brew/indie scene. While the sun may have set on SEGA’s final console sometime in the early 2000s, the amount of quality games that continue to hit the platform to this very day is nothing short of incredible. Released back in April, DUX 1.5 is a revised version of DUX, which was originally released on the Dreamcast back in 2009. This version fixes a lot of bugs that were in the original and adds new features, such as customizable control, and rebalanced gameplay to make the game more playable and less frustrating.

DUX2The Great:

Fantastic gameplay. It’s so easy to make a me-too shooter, but Hucast did a fantastic job of combining classical elements and putting them to great use. The protective Power Pod floats in front of your ship and can be used to absorb bullets, or fired to destroy enemies. There’s a powerful charge shot that works like Mega Man’s Mega Buster, and missiles which can be shot in front or above and below your ship, all helping to clear out the swarms of attacking ships. Add in some excellent power-ups and you have yourself a fantastic shoot ’em up that will keep you busy for weeks.

DUX1The Good:

+ Bullet absorption is key to surviving the onslaught. So long as you have your Power Pod in front of you and absorbing bullets, you can build up a special absorption meter which allows you to activate bullet soaking, whereby all the bullets around your ship are absorbed. Activating this depletes the absorption meter so you have be strategic on when to use it.

+ Instant respawns greatly helps new players ease into the game. Instead of having to traverse large areas over and over again, when you die you instantly reappear where where you were.

+ A challenge without being ridiculous. The first level is a complete breeze, and acts as a sort of introduction so players can get used to the different gameplay mechanics. Don’t expect hand-holding though as the second stage ramps up the difficulty considerably, and by the time you hit the third level your lives are going to deplete faster than the absorption meter. It’s never overly frustrating though, and that’s the way I love my shoot ’em ups.

+ A long journey. Scores only tally when all your lives and continues are used. That’s rather original, and I really like it because instead of having a three minute game, you feel like you’ve actually accomplished something, even when you completely suck.

+ Customizable controls may seem like a no-brainer, but they weren’t in the original version. While this may not be a problem for those using the controller, it’s very important for anyone playing with the arcade stick, which DUX proudly supports.

+ Graphics are fantastic, and with VGA support you can get native 480p on your monitor. While the game runs at a 4:3 resolution, I have had tremendous success upscaling that 480p signal to 720p and 1080p. The level-design is excellent, there are six completely original and awesome looking bosses, and over 30 unique enemies. It might not sound like much, but for an indie release this feels like a professional shooter.

+ While the sound effects are fairly standard, the music is amazing. Hucast included Redux: Dark Matters’ four CD soundtrack as a bonus, and I’ve been listening to it on my iPhone almost every day since it arrived. Yes, it really is that good. Andre Neumann and Marco Groß both deserve to be commended for an outstanding effort.  While not all of those tracks are featured in this version of the game, the arrangement is fantastic.

+ Region free. Buy the game and you can play it anywhere in the world on any Dreamcast.

DUX4The So-So:

+/- While the game has been improved over the original, I still found it tough to differentiate between what I should be avoiding, and what could completely destroy me in the environment. Bullets are very easy to see, but sometimes there are objects in the environment that you’re supposed to avoid, and others you can fly right through. It can be a little difficult to see until you get used to the various stages.

DUX3The Bad:

– Menu presentation is a little bland. A white screen with some text is about all you’re going to get.

The Ugly:

Jarrod trying to make it past the fifth stage. It’s scary!

DUX5The Lowdown:

Coming in at €32.95 (~$45 USD) DUX 1.5 is a fantastic game that any Dreamcast owner should pick up. It’s available from Hucast.com, and I’m a firm believer in supporting developers that do work out of passion. If someone is making a game for a system that has been defunct for over a decade, I’d call that passion. I’m also very pleased that Redux: Dark Matters will be coming out on XLA, PSN, and Steam so everyone can enjoy a variation of this excellent game, and for an extremely low price. While some might scoff at the asking price of DUX 1.5, considering the amount of work and the quality product you’re getting, I honestly feel the price is not only justified, but fair. If you enjoy shoot ’em ups, this is one you can sit back and enjoy without ripping your hair out. It comes extremely highly recommended for anyone still playing SEGA’s final entry in the console market.

Final Score: 8.5/10

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