Anyone who has ever owned a Sega console is familiar with a certain whirling blue creature named “Sonic the Hedgehog”. The delightfully quirky Sonic has been running around since the early 1990s, and has now made his way to mobile gaming with Sonic Dash for iOS.
Developed by Hardlight. Sonic Dash is the second Sonic game from them following their rather sluggish and dull Sonic Jump vertical platformer. The question is whether or not Sonic Dash is any better, especially given the general limitations of gameplay on touchscreen devices.
Sonic Dash is what is known as a “free roaming” or “endless runner” 3D platform game. This means that the player controls the heroic hedgehog who is free to run and jump in all directions. Like all previous Sonic incarnations, Sonic Dash is primarily a 3D running game where points are accrued for collecting rings and completing the levels as quickly as possible. If that isn’t enough of a challenge, there are obstacles and enemies to avoid, plus the added annoyance of automatically moving forward all the time.
For an iOS tablet game, the 3D graphics environment is solid enough and no better or worse than the same game for Android. Sound and music is louder and clearer because of Apple’s better hardware, but ultimately, Sonic Dash is the same product ported across. Having said that, the swipe-based controls are still irksome but better than the using the gyroscopic functions which move the character when the angle of the screen is changed.
The colorful and chaotic levels themselves are rendered smoothly but are visually too similar to each other and noticeably repetitive. Younger players will undoubtedly be less judgmental about any of the graphical or musical aspects than seasoned gamers who are likely to get bored. To be brutally honest, longevity of this free app is not meant to be its biggest selling point anyway.
Sonic Dash has, however, been harshly criticized for being a game that you “pay to win” rather than “play to win”. The more entertaining aspects of the game depend upon collecting red rings to unlock other levels, upgrades, and characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog Universe such as Tails and Knuckles, but everything can be unlocked by purchasing rings rather than having to earn them. If you can pay for it all, there’s no great challenge, and therein lies a common problem with free game apps in general.
Sonic Dash is a decent 3D game which successfully captures the spirit of the original Sonic the Hedgehog platform games and fulfills the nostalgia niche extremely well. However, hardcore Sonic fans may be disappointed by the games limitations and lack of variation. Casual players and anyone new to Sonic the Hedgehog and his hilarious gang of animal associates will love it.