Kalypso Media are rapidly becoming associated with the delivery of high quality niche products. Having made their name on the PC each new console signing is enough to impress, but the releases thus far have been nothing short of a masterstroke: providing content that there is clearly a demand for despite a lack of supply channels. Tropico is one of the franchises which have found fortune in Kalypso Media’s console confidence, and the upcoming Omerta – City of Gangsters is poised to perfectly capture an audience reinvested in console strategy after the success of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Dollar Dash however, is something entirely different.
Set to launch on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, via the Xbox LIVE Arcade, PlayStation Network and Steam respectively, in the very near future, Dollar Dash is a product of retro intent designed for a very modern audience. Its simplistic multiplayer-orientated gameplay belies a wealth of depth and strategy at its heart in the same capacity that Bomberman and the original Super Mario Kart harnessed in order to appeal to players of all walks of life, and that New Super Mario Bros. does now. Given a simple and ignorable sugar coated introduction scene the player is thrown into the role of a bank robber hard at his nefarious work, but he’s not the only one on the scene.
Players are tasked with competing with one another in a race to collect as much finance as they possibly can before returning it to their van (effectively ‘banking’ it). When carrying the money you remain vulnerable to enemy attacks which could potentially lead to you dropping some cash, but of course you always have the chance to retaliate – or get in first, if you have had the foresight to prepare. Both cash and weapons appear on the map in a timed respawn mechanic, so players have to study the field of play carefully so that they may predict when a new item will appear and where, in an effort to ensure that any detours from their trip to the money hold prove fruitful.
The weaponry is of course a key part of the videogame, as without it Dollar Dash would be a simple case of finding the shortest route from A-to-B and repeating ad nauseum. It’s only right then that the team at Candygun Games has taken the time to develop a series of weapons that can help, hinder and even backfire on the user and other players on the map. Sometimes, all at once. Players can equip three items at any one time (seemingly to aggressive and one defensive, though this limitation has not been confirmed) after collecting them from the map in the same fashion as the cash, though which is the more important option clearly depends on your place in the current standings, your location on the map and that of the getaway van.
Each match could quite easily act as a standalone entity, just as is the case with the aforementioned 16-bit heroes. However, as an additional aside to denote progress through the videogame, Dollar Dash doubles its meta-game offerings by giving the player the ability to keep all of their banked capital between matches and using this to buy new accessories from the in-game shop, such as cosmetic additions including new hats and taunts, but also perks and weapon upgrades, both of which are everlasting but only one of each is selectable per match.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle Dollar Dash faces, as while it’s obvious as to why the colourful, family friendly art style was chosen, a quick look at the screenshots without understanding the gameplay screams of a Facebook or iOS title designed for casual audiences only. This may indeed be the case, but if it were – given the lack of technical complexity in Dollar Dash – Electronic Theatre would suggest that Kalypso Media are planning on sending the videogame to all the wrong places. There’s nothing here to prevent Dollar Dash appearing on Wii U, iPad or even Facebook.
However, as you may have gathered from Electronic Theatre’s positive reflection throughout this preview, the team here are confident this isn’t the case. Dollar Dash will be a title worth adopting on Xbox LIVE Arcade, PlayStation Network and via Steam for PC as it walks that fine line between retro sentimentality and modern accessibility in a way that so very few videogame titles are capable of doing. Dollar Dash may not be the stuff AAA launches are made of, but it’s perfectly capable of causing a storm in digital delivery teacups.