Launching on the Xbox LIVE Arcade and PC today (and coming to PlayStation Network in the bear future) Candygun Games’ Dollar Dash is the kind of experience that console digital distribution systems were made for, and yet are so rarely seen these days. A gentle pick-up-and-play experience that, in the right hands, can become a manic rush for high scores, Dollar Dash is a deceptively simple videogame built for everyone from 16-bit heroes for Facebookers.
Built as a multiplayer experience, Dollar Dash’s tutorial is short and sweet. Beginning with the Boot Camp option, players will find that their five minutes of instruction is only half the story. The basics of collecting cash and delivering it to the getaway vehicle are first on the agenda, following by using both a basic and special weapons against the enemy, but beyond this Dollar Dash is a learn-as-you-play title. And all the better for it.
Designed for four players either online or locally (or any combination thereof) Dollar Dash’s Quick Match option fits the bill perfectly: throwing you straight into an available match and filling it with bot players, should there not be enough human adversaries ready to play. There are three gameplay modes included in the videogame all built around this core experience, but while Boot Camp trains you for the actually Dollar Dash itself, Hit’n’Run and Save the Safe are learnt through play, just as are the weapons.
Hit’n’Run is a more complicated affair, demanding that you pay much greater attention to your enemy’s tactics. Rather than simply avoiding their fire as best you can, you must now ensure that you have them in your line-of-sight at the exact moment they take a risk. Essentially Dollar Dash’s take on the traditional deathmatch, Hit’n’Run awards points for knocking out your enemy, but being knocked out your self can stun you for long enough that the penalty for failure is greater than the reward for success. As such, Hit’n’Run becomes a tight battle for supremacy wherein the dash for the limited weaponry is often more important than the kill.
Save the Safe, the third gameplay mode, is arguably the weakest of the selection. Still enjoyable, players are challenged with retaining possession of the safe until the time bar fills. Of course, the safe changes hands very rapidly with little dependence on skill of the players, meaning that Save the Safe can even things up when playing with newcomers, but experienced players will quickly tire of the lack of inventible design.
One of Dollar Dash’s key selling points is the huge variety of weapons available. Different weapon sets are available on different levels and in different gameplay modes. However, the selection is totally customisable, so players can create a match that suits their needs either online or locally.
Dollar Dash pushes itself beyond the 16-bit titles that influenced so much of its design by way of an overarching customisation system. Players can spend the cash earned in matches on new hats, taunts, accessories and other visual assets that demonstrate their ability. More than this however, they can also purchase Perks and Upgrades, which can have a significant affect on the way the videogame is played. Upgrades are permanent improvements to your abilities, such as running faster or a larger sack to carry more money at any one time, though only one upgrade may be equipped at a time. Perks, on the other hand, mostly improve your weapons or your resistance to your enemy’s weapons.
From a technical standpoint, Dollar Dash is never going to set the world on fire. It’s pleasantly cartoonish visual quality and Looney Tunes esque soundtrack are most certainly welcoming, but hardly revolutionary. More impressive is the ability to mix players between local and online; have a mate who wanted to play but couldn’t make the journey? Have them download Dollar Dash and access your match remotely. Have a friend visiting who wants to give it a try for themselves? Simply sign them in as a guest account. This is a feature of Xbox LIVE that is all too often overlooked: Halo has it, both Left 4 Dead and its successor offer it, and now Dollar Dash joins the prestigious ranks.
Unlikely to make much of a lasting impression on the Xbox LIVE Arcade (or Steam and the PlayStation Network for that matter), Dollar Dash is nonetheless a welcome addition to the catalogue. It’s the perfect way to spend an evening with friends of varying ability, just as Bomberman and Super Mario Kart before it, and for that Dollar Dash is likely to find an audience ready and willing to receive it. However, those who are in it for the long haul, out to climb the highest ranks of the level system, will be much harder to find.