At the top of the Dollar Dash website, alongside the game’s logo, is a quote from a videogaming website that describes it as a “potential Bomberman killer”. The mechanical similarities between the two games are vaguely apparent, but the fact that the developers of Dollar Dash feel that toppling a long-irrelevant franchise like Bomberman is worthy of front page headlines perfectly illustrates the misguided judgement that simply plagues the entire package.
Dollar Dash is a simple, top down, four player arcade game that takes many of its cues from classic Bomberman. The concept is simple: you’re a robber, get that paper, preferably at the expense of the opposing robbers. In terms of structure it’s a barebones package, made up of a brief tutorial and three game modes. An eponymous mode in which players race to fill a cash meter, “Hit’n’Run”, a chaotic deathmatch, and “Save The Safe”, where the player who holds onto a single safe the longest is the winner. Whilst there are only three modes, the design behind them is pleasingly varied and packed with content. There’s a range of heist-themed maps, and thirty weapons that manage to have decent variety and impact. It has been too long since a game forced me to play with reversed controls, but the simplest ones like the snowball will do fine in a pinch.
The backbone of Dollar Dash’s design is largely tight and impressive for a title of its small stature. The music in particular caught my ear, filled with jazzy riffs reminiscent of my favourite soundtrack of all time, Rockstar’s Canis Canem Edit (aka Bully). Being an online-focused title, the importance of lag free performance and decent hosting is self-evident, and I encountered no problems or early disconnections during my time online with the game.
This is where the praise for Dollar Dash ends. Kalypso Media have got the backbone and ribcage of a game standing solidly and true, but in doing so they forgot to fill it in with a heart. Even though the product has its intentions in the right place, it isn’t all that fun to play. Dollar Dash mode is dull and dreary. The aiming and use of weapons and traps is not precise or effective, and most multiplayer games in this mode I played ended up in the players simply engaging in a straight foot race, running past all powerups unless they were the speed boost.
Save The Safe is equally dreary but with the added caveat of frustration. The timelessness of classic Bomberman gameplay comes from the way its rules and conditions were absolutely obvious and defined. You knew exactly where you could go, how far bombs would explode and where you had to aim to win. There’s a slightly more chaotic approach to the gameplay in Dollar Dash, and it seemed like Save The Safe descended into a frustrating maelstrom of four players meeting at a chokepoint in the map, then expending all of their items and rendering everyone incapacitated and unable to properly control their avatar. The only mode of merit is Hit’n’Run. Taking away all objectives other than hit the other players with stuff suits the hectic nature the structure creates, and the well thought out settings and items endeared it to me.
My final point, and perhaps my most philosophical, is that it feels like Dollar Dash accidentally got released on the wrong platforms. It’s coming out on XBLA, PSN and PC, but it feels like this sort of quirky, five minute entertainer has long been grown out of by console downloadable platforms. Dollar Dash would have been far more suited to being released on mobile platforms. I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but it maybe should’ve been a free-to-play mobile release, where players can chip in optional payments for the coolest items. The one game Dollar Dash reminds me of most isn’t Bomberman, but Doritos Dash of Destruction. Not only was that free, it was released half a decade ago and did exactly what Dollar Dash tries to do but better. I feel for the developers, who clearly had their hearts in the right place when making this game, but the misjudgements in its structure and release make it impossible to love.