Video Credit: Dreamfab
Before I begin this review I would just like to establish that this game was played on an iPhone 4 and that we will be using the surely by now familiar rating scale of PASS, EH, and OKAY, YEAH.
Something that not a lot of people know about me is that I’m a very, very big fan of the endless-dash-style score attack games, and that I love to take them with me on my phone. For example, I once declared that Canabalt was an absolutely perfect game, and I stand by that claim today. I’m also a huge fan of the evolutions which have followed up on Canabalt‘s success such as Above or, more recently, the incredibly successful Tiny Wings. It feels a little cheap, but using a touch screen for only the simplest of controls is a fantastic way to make a game on a touchscreen device, and this has been proven time and time again. On paper, Demolition Dash seems to have everything it takes to ride the wake of popularity left by those titles. It puts you in the role of Zilla, a pink dinosaur set to run through stages destroying everything in his path with his bulk and his mighty roar. The game is fast, the graphics stylish and detailed, and the twist of trying to destroy environmental obstacles as opposed to avoiding them seems as if it should be winner. That said, the game misses out on some of the most important parts of the gameplay experience that makes a game like Robot Unicorn Attack or BIT.TRIP Runner such winners.
The first thing that surprised me about this game were the graphics. In the screenshots I’d seen, everything looked sharp and distinct, reflecting an incredible amount of effort and detail. In gameplay, however, these qualities do not shine through. Rather, they make the game’s world feel cluttered and indistinguishable. Even the levels, which pit you in several different countries throughout the world, do little to make you feel as though you are actually in a new environment. There are different backgrounds used, and the subtle background tracks are evocative of a new locale; but the differences are a bit too subtle, and each location looks and feels almost exactly like the last little-bit-too-busy country you played through.
Each stage has a primary win condition of getting through it without losing the four segments of your tail which represent your hit points, if you will, but they also feature secondary objectives such as destroying a certain type of tree, enemy, or obstacle or collecting enough of a certain something scattered throughout the stage. These secondary objectives are unfortunately hindered by the problems outlined above, as the game plays a bit too fast to properly distinguish and seek out many of these objectives. Much of the time I was not aware of what I was doing as I was completing them, the reward screen giving me a sense of surprise more than a sense of accomplishment. Similarly, it becomes difficult to distinguish the enemies you encounter, the developer’s solution is inelegant and distracting at best. Rather than make a real effort to have the enemies stand out, somebody decided that the best way to alert the player is to play a police siren in the background while the enemies themselves emit enormous lens flares. Admittedly, it’s effective, but it highlights one of this games biggest flaws rather than corrects it. It feels like a half-baked, last minute solution which betrays the attention to detail paid to so many other portions of this game.
Ultimately, my biggest problem with this game is what puts it so far behind the market it hopes to compete in. The brilliance in a game like Canabalt or Tiny Wings is that not once while playing those games did I ever feel like I wasn’t in control of my character. Conversely, not once while playing Demolition Dash did I feel as though I had any control over the character. I rarely felt as if it were my fault when I failed a mission because there was so much going on in such a tiny window that it seemed impossible to keep track of it all, and I never felt like I did anything all that great when I succeeded. I felt like I made a legit effort to get better at the game, and yet I still felt like my successes and failures were out of my hands. I commend the effort of developer Dreamfab, because they’ve clearly put quite a bit of work into this game. Sadly, though, they’ve put this effort into a mediocre experience. (A generous) EH.