Saturday 8 February 2014

Sonic Dash review

Sonic Dash is a member of the ‘endless runner’ genre of games which has become popular with mobile gaming (and by mobile gaming, I mean gaming on mobile phones/tablets etc).  Sonic is perfectly suited to this style of game and it makes sense for the character, win and win right?
The way it works is Sonic always runs into the screen and you have to swipe up, down left and right to avoid obstacles and collect rings, occasionally having to tap the screen to attack enemies.

Simple and enjoyable.

  Or it should be.  Sadly Sonic Dash suffers a few rather major flaws.

It starts off rather good as the graphics looks nice, there are a variety of characters that you can work to play as and the music is Sonic-like in nature.  Initially only Sonic is available, but after enough red ring collecting, Tails, Blaze and a few others can be bought.  Red rings can be earned by progressing through the game and collecting them.  Or by buying them with real money.

One thing that annoys me is the free games that push microtransactions.  Just 99cents to buy a booster something or the other.  Sure I understand they need to make money, but I also wonder if it affects the design of the game.  More on that In another post.
RedRings and multipliers Oh MY!
The gameplay itself is standard fair, you can apply some earned add-ons to increase your score multiplier, get bonus points from baddies, shields and the like and while you are running along it can actually be quite enjoyable.  However as the game gets trickier, it can get impossibly hard.

There are essentially 4 types of obstacle. Poles, baddies, things to jump and things to duck (spin) under, baddies take your rings and can only kill you when ringless, everything else is instant death. Most of it is simple enough, but the levels appear to be randomly generated.  Well, at least I hope they are.  Where I usually come a cropper is when you have this situation:
  • Spin under and obstacle that obscures the track beyond it.
  • Directly after it is a jump obstacle/pole.
  • Can’t see, as jump/pole obstacle has been covered by the obscuring obstacle.
  • Death.
Then you will either need to use one of your red rings to continue on, or restart the game from the beginning.  I appreciate that Sonic Dash gives you the option to find red rings in the levels themselves (one up on the continues in Pitfall!), but they are pretty rare and if you want to unlock characters you can’t waste them on continuing.
But I guess that could be the challenge.  The worth of the rings weighed up against the challenge of the game.  However it certainly feels cheap and cheaty when you get the above dot-pointed-death-combo. 
Oddly for a Sonic game, it doesn’t feel all that fast either, there are long breaks between sections, where Sonic hits a spring to get to the boss/next level and he awkwardly flies upwards for a very long time.  The only Boss I could be bothered playing against was the first one, Zazz or something from Sonic Lost World and he is hardly a challenge.  At the end of the fight, Sonic Springs up, you attack Zazz 3 times, and after Zazz falls away, Sonic is STILL hurtling upwards… Very odd.  Also the falling into the water animation just looks horrible.

Zazz?Endless Jumping
I guess, overall Sonic Dash is an OK game.  Not really bad, but definitely not good and I would like it a lot more if the dot-pointed-death-combo did not happen as often as it does.  To me it feels like it’s a deliberate piece of programming that’s there just to make you fail.  Sure if you can pass it then yay, you have pretty good skills or are very lucky, but putting it there just to piss people off and make then use their rings (possibly make people buy them?) comes across to me as bad game design.  Even for a free one.

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