Time was that a desire to play handheld Sonic games meant you needed a barrel-load of batteries and a backpack to carry the console in. Fortunately, these days things are much simpler! Sonic Dash is Sega’s latest iOS Sonic game, but the first one that isn’t either a port or remake of an existing Sonic title. For anyone who enjoys the “endless runner” games like the much heralded Temple Run series, Sonic Dash should be right up your alley.
Much like Temple Run, the game’s perspective is behind the player character- initially Sonic- as the hero runs without rest toward a non-existent goal, though aside from this aspect, Sonic Dash has surprisingly little in common with the idol-liberating adventure- for instance, you never have to turn any corners in Sonic Dash and you swipe left and right to sidestep, rather than tilt your device. Naturally, some of Sonic’s more familiar game mechanics come into play in Sonic Dash. Sonic can sustain a hit off an enemy or a hazard as long as he has at least one ring, though colliding with a wall will knock Sonic on his behind and will end the game, as will falling down a pit into the waters below. Another game mechanic used to fun effect is Sonic’s homing attack- Chopper Badniks leap from the water along long stretches without ground and the player has to react quickly to bounce from baddie to baddie to reach dry land once more.
Arguably the most vital game mechanic is the collection of the Sonic series’ famous gold rings. As Sonic collects rings, his Dash Meter fills up. When it is full, Sonic can zoom for an extended period, completely invincible, though at the expense of the score multiplier earned for a full Dash Meter. When taking a break from dashing, however, the Player can use any rings they successfully manage to bank to purchase lots of handy goodies that will make their experience easier. These include upgrades to Sonic’s Dash Meter, allowing it to fill more quickly and have greater effect, as well as the option to give Sonic a headstart at the beginning of a run or upgrade the magnet shield’s powers.
Of course, recent Sonic games don’t just stick to rings of the gold variety and Sonic Dash brings back the rare Red Rings. These serve as a secondary currency and can be used to buy some more special goodies, including extra characters- at the time of writing, these characters are Tails, Knuckles and Amy, meaning the four most iconic Sonic franchise good guys are all represented. Red rings can be earned for clearing the many challenges in the game and can also be bought using real money via your iTunes account.
Graphically, this is a lovely looking game, in places on a par with a lot of 3DS or PS Vita titles, though it’s still probably unfair to call it “high-definition” as you’re never really afforded the opportunity to inspect things in detail. That said, the character models and landscapes are perfectly serviceable and nice to look at. The game’s music is also very nice, but you may tire of hearing the same tunes over and over again. While the Seaside Hill theme is a really great tune, you might just get a bit weary of it on your seventh play of the game! When all is said and done, however, it’s the gameplay that counts most in Sonic Dash.
Unfortunately, Sonic Dash is not without its faults. The game routinely suffers from slowdown and lag issues, a major no-no in a game focused around speed. A recent update has improved this problem noticeably, but it’s still a huge problem for the game. Similarly, the placement of walls and objects in positions that would require super-human reflexes and guesswork can often kill an otherwise excellent run. This, as with the slowdown, was addressed in the update, but the problem still persists. Another update that completely eradicated these problems would be very welcome indeed.
Sonic Dash’s other major problem is one that is sadly emblematic of the iOS games scene. While Sonic Dash is free to download and play, to unlock the game’s other characters will require either an immense amount of luck with the daily challenges, for you to play for weeks on end to stockpile Red Rings (made worse considering some challenges require you to spent them!) or to fork out real money for them. To unlock Tails, Amy and Knuckles, a player will have to put down roughly £10. Whether or not this is justified is entirely up to each individual player, but it certainly seems steep for what is essentially a mini-game.
In the end, Sonic Dash is not perfect, but it’s a good way away from being unsalvageable. Another title update could fix the game’s two biggest problems, though it remains to be seen whether or not Sega will deem it worthy to do so. Likewise, the game gets very repetitive very quickly- a few changes of scenery beyond Seaside Hill and Ocean Palace would be very welcome in a future update. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a fun way to pass a bit of time then you could do a lot worse than Sonic Dash. And considering it’s free, you’d be daft not to at least give it a go.