Dollar Dash


posted 3/8/2013 by Nathaniel Cohen
other articles by Nathaniel Cohen
Platforms: 360
What is Dollar Dash, exactly?  That’s a valid question, because initially it sounded like a Diner Dash clone, sequel, or gritty reboot.  It’s not, however.  What Dollar Dash is, is a four-player competitive battle game involving four palette-swapped cartoon bank robbers straight out of a 1940’s cartoon robbing banks and each other.  The whole thing made me feel like Bugs Bunny was going to show up any second, crack wise, then defeat all four using an Acme safe.  Sure, as you earn money in the game, you can customize your character with a number of faces and hats so you’re only partially palette-swapped (some of the earlier ones can be combined to look a bit like Yosemite Sam - just to further the “Bugs Bunny-ness” of my point).  You can also unlock perks using cash earned during gameplay.  The very first one is immunity to self-harm from one specific kind of thrown weapon - not even general immunity, no; it’s immunity from your own friendly fire.  What does it say about a game when you can knock yourself out with your own attacks?  That seems like some serious wrong-headedness if you ask me - like planting landmines in your driveway BEFORE you leave on vacation.  

Gameplay is between some combination of humans and/or bots.  Your goal is to grab money, usually by stealing it from another player by hitting them, then depositing it in a getaway vehicle that shows up from time to time in random locations.  There are two other modes as well; one gives you cash for knocking out your opponents (hey, it’s like boxing minus all the pomp and circumstance), and the other requires you to fight for possession of a safe that you earn points for carrying.  All three modes play to a score limit.  The winner is the first one to reach it.  

The tools you use for knocking out opponents run the gamut from fists and snowballs to rockets and stun guns.  There are a slew of defensive weapons and power-ups as well; these consist of things like bombs, bear traps, portable holes, reflective jelly, super-speed, and health packs.  These items show up as icons on the map at random locations and times and you simply walk over one to collect one.  It sounds easy, but because you need an empty slot to actually pick something up, it can be a pain to use up, say, snowballs so you can pick up rockets because someone else will surely grab it before you do.  

If that wasn’t bad enough, actually hitting anyone proves to be way more challenging than it should be.  There’s no lock-on and manual aim is useless because the game moves so fast.  Some projectile weapons get around this by bouncing off surfaces but that only leads to maps descending into a wild storm of bouncing death.  This chaos is furthered by the constant stream of defensive weapons and environmental hazards bouncing you around the map.  Also, the lack of any kind of real visual uniqueness or flair in Dollar Dash’s art-style further hampers you because nothing stands out.  After a few seconds, everything becomes a dull and samey blur.  This all conspired against me to ensure that I never could get into a rhythm and enjoy myself.

The maps, while numerous, don’t stand out much from each other.  Many of them have unique environmental hazards, but that works against you as much as it works against them because, as a side effect, many weapons hamper your ability to move your little bank robber.  That means you will blunder into said environmental hazards more often than you’ll lure or otherwise force them into said environmental hazards.  The slightest contact seems to leave you stunned, slowed down, or straight up reverses your inputs.  There’s never any warning, either, and most of the time you’re barely even aware of what it was that hit you.  Again, since there’s nothing to make any part of the game stand out visually, it just gets tiring - like trying to follow a specific popcorn kernel in the middle of popping a whole batch.

Maybe after hours and hours of time spent grinding it out in the trenches, maybe you can eek out some enjoyment owning all the n00bs that haven’t developed “Matrix-vision” like you have and are blinded by the chaos.  I can’t imagine very many people are going to find Dollar Dash enjoyable enough for that kind of commitment, however.  It’s not enough for a game to have a series of unlockables that make you better - you actually have to want to play it to get better and I don’t ever want to play Dollar Dash again.

Along with online multiplayer, Dollar Dash provides for local and system link play as well.  However, those modes suffer from the same issues that online multiplayer does because they’re functionally identical.  Local and system link suffer from their own specific brand of hell, however: bots.  Yes, bots do appear in online matches with less than 4 players also, but it’s far less common than in local and system link.  If you do have less than four people (or eight with system link) bots fill the rest of the slots.  These bots are deadly assassins whose shots always land.  Generally they don’t suffer from the flaws of perception humans do, and even though you can customize the number of bots and their difficulty level you’re probably not going to want to spend that kind of time with it.  Maybe 1v1 matches against similarly skilled buddies could be fun, but there are so many other better options for that, so why would anyone bother?

Ultimately, there was nothing I liked about Dollar Dash.  It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t sound good, and it doesn’t play well; however, it’s not exactly what I’d call “bad” - just generic and dull.  In many ways, that’s worse than “bad;” often times “bad” is at least memorable.
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