Dash Race is a game which immediately drew my interest as soon as it caught my eye. An electronic form a pencil and paper game popular in youth, I thought it might be the very game that I used to play myself on traditional pencil and paper. I soon discovered that while it wasn’t a game that I was familiar with (the one I used to play was a kind of “pencil flick” racing game), it was nevertheless an interesting game that some of you may have played in your childhood.
The rules are complicated and difficult to explain succinctly. There is a brief introduction to the rules available but I couldn’t really grasp the concept of the game rules and strategy until I played it and failed miserably. Basically, imagine a race track drawn onto paper that has grid squares ruled onto it. Your racer starts on the start line on a spot at the intersection of two lines, and moves are made in turn to another intersection point following a few basic rules. Each move your car follows the extrapolated path of the previous move, but you are able to change the destination point by only 1 grid square each move. If your previous move was 3 squares for example, your next move can only be either 2, 3, or 4 grid squares. Therefore it takes time to accelerate, as well as time to brake. Most new players will probably be like me and start out far too confidently and end up crashing at the first bend in sight. There is quite a bit of strategy (well trial and error at least), involved in working out the best way to take corners – slow down in advance knowing that you might lose valuable time? Or try to take a corner hard and loop around it?
I probably haven’t done a very good job of describing the rules, and ultimately I wouldn’t be able to explain them sufficiently within the scope of this review. Here is a website that details the rules – Graph Racers – and I suggest that if you are considering purchasing the game without knowledge of how it works that you first try the game online at the blueRing website.
The game’s graphical elements are functional but nothing more. The sounds are equally dull, without so much as an occasional “rev” sound effect to give the illusion that you might actually be racing the real-life counterparts of the crosses and lines that represent them in the game.
The game is interesting especially if the concept is a novel one to the player. Sadly the interest wanes dramatically once you’ve beaten the AI on each of the included 9 tracks. Multiplayer with up to 4 human racers is where any lasting value in this game will be found, which is going to rely on local players because sadly there is no online play available. Multiplayer can take place on the same iOS device, or multiple players, each using their own iOS device (up to 4), can connect to play over WiFi or Bluetooth. Each player will need to own a copy of the game because “download play” like that seen on the DS is not something I’ve seen available on iOS.
Unfortunately I found the multi-device multiplayer to be very buggy, with my iPhone 4 unable to host any matches against an iPhone 3GS or iPad. The iPad and iPhone 3GS were able to host games, as long as we didn’t include any AI robot players – this produced a crash upon startup each and every time.
Dash Race is a fun little game as long as you have someone to play with because the AI players (Robot 1, Robot 2, Robot 3) won’t give you a very rich gameplay experience. The AI players don’t even have made-up names or made-up personalities to at least try to give you a faux racing experience so you’ll always feel like you are just drawing crosses and dashes on a virtual page against a computer. It’s not something that would make me want to spend extra money on the in-app additional track purchases – at least not until the bugs are squashed and online play was introduced. I’m not sure if this is something the developer is intending on implementing, but it certainly a glaring omission that would greatly increase the value of this game. It would also be nice if some of the options and “house rules” that are talked about on the Graph Racers website were available in the game to add some more variety.
Dash Race is only $1.29 on the App Store and is a universal App (playing on the iPad allows you to see more of the track as you race without having to pinch, zoom, and pan as much). Unless you are desperate to join the race, I would advise holding off until you are sure that some of the problems described above have been eliminated. And if you don’t have anyone to play it with then I certainly don’t think there is much point until such time as online multiplayer can be implemented (as yet not a promised feature).