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Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: Dash Race (iPhone)

Dash Race, despite the name, is not a fast paced racing game. It’s actually one of those pen-and-paper games that people play to while away time on plains, trains and other assorted confined places – much like boxes and noughts and crosses.

This is probably not what you thought when you saw 'Dash Race'

Using a grid paper “racing track,” the goal is to navigate twists and turns to reach the end… by taking turns placing little ‘x’es on the board. The rules are pretty simple – if you line up the crosses in a straight line, you can accelerate to cover more space, but to turn, you need to decelerate. If you’re going too fast and don’t give yourself room to turn, you’ll crash, meaning you miss a turn or two.

There’s actually quite a bit of strategy to timing the acceleration and deceleration to hit ideal race curves, and it can be frustrating in the initial stages to work out how the game works. But those initial impressions quickly fade – I’d expect most people to have a hang of the game within 30 minutes, and from there it’s all good fun.

It might not be the most exciting game, but it's addictive nonetheless, and perfect for iPhone

Up to four people can play, and this can be done via hot-seat, wireless or against the AI. Mind you, the AI is pretty bad and predictable (though there is a sliding difficulty scale), so it’s really a game that has been designed to be played with friends.

And within that context, it works brilliantly. For those downtimes with friends or family the game is enormously addictive, and very competitive. The ability to save the races for upload to Facebook naturally means no one is going to want to lose – and indeed this is one of the game’s smartest features in encouraging social gaming with a device that is easy to carry around.

The game is a budget production – sound effects are minimal (just as well, since you’ll likely be playing this in public places where game music is not warranted, Sydney Cityrail customers, I’m looking at you), and the visuals are as you’d expect – grid paper and some faux “hand drawn” backgrounds. It’s a charming enough package, but it’s not going to win any aesthetic awards.

Yes. I crashed going over the finish line. That's pretty hardcore

There are nine tracks in the initial download – and that is plenty for the casual players. If you really get into the game, there are a couple of extra, premium tracks available for download for a dollar or two, but they’re not necessary (that said, it’s good to support the indie developer if you like the game).

And that’s about all that can be said about this game. It’s cheap, it’s addictive and it’s social – it’s the kind of game that is perfect for the iPhone format. Game of the year? No, but it's well designed and easy to get into. And because it's so cheap, this is actually good value, so it comes recommended.

Review: Dash Race (iPhone)
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