This time everyone’s favorite super-fast blue hedgehog tries his luck on the iOS platform and does so admirably. Sonic Dash is an endless runner with micro-transactions, much akin to the hugely popular Temple Run, but with a classic SEGA twist. Harking back to some familiar bonus stages from previous games, Sonic Dash seems to possess all the pros and cons you would expect from any of the hordes of endless runner apps available these days.
The menu is set upon a backdrop much like Green Hill Zone and is pleasantly self-explanatory, a rotating menu lets you choose between unlocked characters, a progress bar resides at the top right hand of the screen with the micro-transactions, and settings are at the bottom. All pretty simple and accessible, which is obviously very important in any iOS app.
Although much of the game menu options aren’t fully explained, they are easy to learn and you find navigation seamlessly easy after only a few games. Items and their effects are much the same, so you’re actually thankful for the lack of spoon-fed information after jumping straight into Sonic Dash.
The zones you run through change either over time or based on which bonus spring you pick to transverse a large gap. Unfortunately after a few hours of play it would seem the only options are the aforementioned Green Hill Zone and a Temple zone. Although this may sound like a negative, the environments obstacles are always changing and this also leaves the app with options to add new zones in later versions.
Swipe left and go left. Swipe right and go right. Flick up and you jump, flick down and you roll. It’s these simple controls that make the game so addictive and easy to get hooked on. Like any good endless runner the game is simply focused on getting a high score by…well, running. Enemies such as robotic turtles, crabs and fish plague your journey, as well as oddly placed gorges, trees and mines which test your reaction time to the limit. In fact, your reactions are the only reason you fail in Sonic Dash, generally the game is responsive and receptive to your finger swiping leaving the gameplay effortless, but thrilling when the pace picks up and the obstacles become more frequent.
Challenges that raise your score multiplier give motivation to gameplay as well as the newly added daily challenges. Although the game has now gone free-to-play, there are still micro transactions within the game which enable you to purchase things such as ring packets, or the iconic ‘red rings’, which can help you unlock new playable characters, and revive tokens to help you run further.
I’m pleased to say they aren’t crucial to gameplay and you can enjoy Sonic Dash ultimately without parting with a dime. The more you play, the more in game rewards you can earn and the farther you can run, the classic pit of endless runner entertainment. Nostalgic mechanics like the homing attack and the power roll play key roles in gameplay alongside the standard rings that seem to make Sonic largely invincible.
As far as iOS games go graphics are obviously limited. Games designed for just the iPad or the newer iPhone 5 have a little more scope, but Sonic Dash is accessible by all devices, meaning its graphics do take a bit of a hit. Even the title image is quite pixelated and the frame rate plummets when performing combos. Nonetheless, the scenery is far superior to Temple Run’s boring environments, and the corkscrew sections are staggeringly cool and unexpected. These issues have pretty much continued through two updates that claimed to improve stability, especially for iPhone 4 devices. Little quirks like the 2D magnetic shield do little to detract from the colorful and dynamic environments you pace through.
Sonic Dash possesses all the usual Sonic sounds and vibes you’d expect, pleasant ‘puff’ noises when you plow through the baddies, the iconic ‘dling, dling‘ when you collect rings, and the brilliant ‘bwoooang‘ when you bounce of a spring. Sadly that also means you’re subjected to the usual tacky dance music that Sonic developers seem to love, which grinds on me even more as it’s an endless runner. Thankfully this game isn’t particularly enhanced by the sound so flip that Silent Mode switch asap, especially in public places.
As the graphics are pretty satisfying, but it goes without saying that the overall stability of the app can sometimes take quite a hit. I have an iPhone 4, so I never expect mind blowing performance from good-looking games, however Sonic Dash holds itself well. Playing in sketchy signal areas, such as on a long train ride, seemed to cause the game to suffer even though an online connection is only necessary to see the high scores. This never made the game unplayable, but did cause the frame rate to take a few hits every now and then, receiving notifications however, seemed to really affect the game. Every time I received a text (or a Skype message from the Bago crew) my game would literally lag to a point of being unable to play. An update was released a few days ago claiming optimization for different playing platforms which, in all honesty, hasn’t really made any improvements. An ideal game for the lonely Smartphone users, perhaps?
Fundamentally, Sonic Dash is fun and maintains the addictive nature you’d expect from an endless runner. It’s pleasingly attractive to look at and possesses much of the classic aspects of any Sonic game. Whilst it is good fun, the stability of the game whilst on the move or when receiving messages is nothing short of disappointing and leaves the game largely unplayable. Having run the game also on an iPhone 5 I can confirm it runs a lot smoother (probably due to the processors), but that just means iPhone 4 users are given a lesser game to play which isn’t right. In short, Sonic Dash is pretty much any other endless runner in SEGA wrapping paper that’s as fun as running and running can be. In all honesty, download Halfbrick’s Jetpack Joyride if you’re after an enjoyable and varied endless runner.
All images used are screenshots of my own gameplay as best to represent the experiences used to review the game. What are your thoughts on Sonic Dash? Please feel free to add your user ratings in the rating section at the top of this review. Sonic Dash was free to play at the time of writing (April 8th 2013).
This review was based on a final version of the game provided by SEGA
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