Some of my fondest memories of multiplayer gaming have involved playing casual games with non-gamer friends. While it’s great fun to beat your best friend at Street Fighter using a focus dash cancelled ultra, sometimes it’s even more fun to see your friends who never play games dance for a motion sensor, hit some plastic drums or hold a steering wheel as they fire off red shells at an Italian plumber. The aforementioned Italian plumber even starred in one of the most family friendly games ever made in the Mario Party series, and it is this title in particular that Dollar Dash evokes the most.
Played from a top-down perspective and with a bright and cheery cartoon style, Dollar Dash is a multiplayer game which is intended to provide comic inspired, friendly family fun. It plays a lot like a Mario Party mini-game, albeit one that has been significantly fleshed out.
The gameplay is simple and accessible. You play as a stereotypical stripy-jumpered thief, and the goal of the game is to collect stolen money sacks that appear throughout the games varied levels and return them to a getaway vehicle. This money appears in a number of ways depending on the level, such as literally “falling off the back of a lorry”, or from a bank vault.
The only threat is the other players who you are competing against. The winner is the thief who reaches a set target of stolen cash first, but your opponents will try to impede your opponents progress through the use of a plethora of Mario-style offensive and defensive items, which you also collect from around the level. As you would expect, the highlight of the game and its standout moments are when you prevent an opponent from getting their cash into the getaway van at the last possible moment, stealing that cash for yourself.
There’s one very clever gameplay mechanic, and it introduces risk/reward very cleverly. As you collect cash you move more slowly as your swag bag fills up. As such, if you go for a huge amount of cash, you are gambling on the chance that you can make it to the van without being waylaid en route. Meanwhile, if you run around and bank every small amount of cash you collect, you run the risk of being overtaken by more ambitious opponents.
While it is possible to play online, I struggled to find many players. You can play against bots, but this is very dull. Thankfully, even if you cant gather some friends online, the game works just as well (if not far better) with some friends on the sofa. Four player games are chaotic and fun affairs.
The games power ups generally work well. They’re a good mix of banana skins (in this case bear traps), offensive weapons (fireworks rockets) and power ups (trainers to make you run faster). You have to use one up to gather another of the same category though, so there’s a lot of random firing off of useless projectiles to gain better ones. The traps are also somewhat easy to avoid, but you can always use them strategically in narrow parts of the game map, forcing enemies to take a much longer path to escape with their swag.
One of the best aspects of Dollar Dash is how all the players move relatively slowly. It makes the game more strategic and means that often the successful player is the sneakiest one who discretely tip-toes to the van while everyone else is too busy fighting each other.
If there’s a weakness to be leveled a the game it’s in its simplicity. There simply isn’t much to it. Sure, its a mini-game that’s been fleshed out, but at its core it still feels like a mini game. There’s no real skill to the game, and while that means its accessible, it also means that there’s no element of mastery and no reason to keep playing it after you’ve played three or fours friends and their attention begins to wonder.
Still there’s some neat customisation options, the music sounds like a kids cartoon (in the best possible way) and though its visuals are very basic, they’re bright and child friendly. A solid family game, and something you might play with a bunch of friends if you can round up enough controllers, Dollar Dash is a party game at heart. It’s easy to get into, fun while it lasts and then easily forgotten.
*Dollar Dash is now available on XBox Live and is coming to PSN on the 20th March, where it will find a better home and be an even more appealing mulitplayer game!*
6 blagged bags of swag out of 10