Thursday, April 11, 2013

App Review: Sonic Dash

I'm surprised it took this long.  Sonic the Hedgehog has long had a strong presence on iOS devices.  Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2, and Sonic CD have all had ports to iOS, with shiny new versions of the former two games on the way.  Sonic Spinball has made an appearance, as has Sonic & SEGA All Stars Racing, as well as both episodes of Sonic 4.  Sonic has even had his very own game designed just for mobile devices, Sonic Jump.

At the same time, endless runner games have become one of the most popular iOS genres, outside of chucking projectiles at precariously place towers.  Endless runners task you with zipping along down a path and trying to survive as long as you can without bonking into something in your way.  Games like Temple Run and Subway Surfers remain exceedingly popular.  That so many endless runners are free no doubt contributes to their immense popularity.

What with Sonic strutting his stuff on iOS all the time these days, it was a match made in heaven to bring the two together, and the result is Sonic Dash.

What began as a three dollar app with some heavy-handed in-app purchases has now become the delightful little freemium game I'm reviewing today.  In-app purchases are still lurking around, but I'll get to them in a bit.  The main goal of Sonic Dash is, of course, to run like the dickens.  Sonic sprints his way through Seaside Hill, complete with all the crumbly ruins and checkerboard hills one would expect to see.  As Sonic motors his way along there are many obstacles to avoid, Badniks to defeat, and rings to collect.  Pretty standard fare for these types of games.

There are three lanes that Sonic can run along, and changing lanes is as simple as swiping your finger back and forth.  By swiping up on the screen Sonic will jump, and swiping down causes him to roll into a ball.  At times, some context-sensitive situations will prompt you to swipe or tap in certain ways to make Sonic do some acrobatic tricks on his way to the next bit of level.  Once you fill up your dash meter, you can make Sonic boost along in auto-pilot for a while, taking out anything in your path. 

 If all this sounds familiar, it should.  Sonic Dash basically takes the quick step portions of Sonic Unleashed, Colors, and Generations and adapts them to the endless runner formula.  The end product is a game that doesn't break a lot of new ground as an endless runner, but should feel very familiar to fans of the blue hedgehog.  The controls are largely adequate, though when things start to get hectic it sometimes feels like the swipe controls have a little trouble keeping up.  From time to time you will lose to obstacle placement that feels unfair, but the game is largely well balanced and quick reflexes will serve you well.

Like most games of this variety there are lots of little purchases one can make in-game should they choose to do so.  Sonic has lots of upgrades that can be purchased, and to do so you'll need rings.  Regular old golden rings are collected pretty rapidly while playing normally, so you likely won't have any problems collecting what you need to unlock what you want.  That said, the option is there to fork over some real cash to increase your ring stash.

Much less common are Red Star Rings, which are dished out more sparingly, and are required to unlock the more desirable goodies, such as extra characters.  Thankfully, courtesy of a few recent updates, Red Star Rings are reasonably attainable just by playing the game regularly.  Daily Missions and special challenges not only provide goals to work for on a regular basis, but also hand out rings and unlockables for your troubles.

So, in the end, the in-app purchases aren't a huge pain here.  If you want to pay up and progress faster, the option is prominently presented to you on a regular basis.  But, unlike a lot of other freemium games, there really isn't anything stopping you from just playing the game and unlocking everything that way.  You can have plenty of fun without spending a penny in Sonic Dash.

One way in which Sonic Dash definitely does not disappoint is in the audio and visual department.  This is a very good looking game, with extremely detailed models and some lovely scenery to enjoy as you play.  Most everything is derived from Sonic Generations, and is put to good effect!  The music is very fitting as well, offering up a fast-paced techno remix of the Seaside Hill theme from Sonic Heroes.  Given that Seaside Hill is one of my favorite pieces of music from any Sonic game, it's always a treat to hear it return!  The game plays very smoothly on a shiny new current generation iPhone, but even on my out-dated old third generation iPod Touch, the game still runs smoothly enough to be perfectly playable, even if the visuals take a big hit for it.  Your mileage may vary, but since it doesn't cost anything to download, there's not risk in giving it a try.

In the end, what you want to put into Sonic Dash is what you will get out of it.  If you're looking for an enjoyable little time killer that captures the same spirit as the last few main series Sonic games, Sonic Dash will be perfect for you.  If you want to hurry up and unlock everything and see everything the game has to over, you might need to pay up a little to do so.  However, even with its flaws, Sonic Dash is still a great experience for Sonic fans and fans of endless runners alike.  There's plenty of fun to be had here!

Sonic Dash is available for iOS here.  An Android version is in the works, but is not yet available.

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