Demo Driver 8: Dollar Dash
The problem with any sort of endless game is that you have to provide a reason why people are going to keep playing. You need to offer something, well, unique.
It’d be unfair to say that Dollar Dash is a bad game. As games go, it’s pretty well functional. I might argue that it’s on the lower side of functional, but that’s not the point and it doesn’t really help or hurt the game on the balance. The problem it has isn’t about whether or not it works.
No, the problem is that it’s a game with the barest form of a game beyond the expectation of having multiple players beating the snot out of one another on a regular basis. Its single-player offering is perfunctory, there to train you and help you unlock things for the online experience, and that online experience is reliant on people deciding that they’d rather play this game as opposed to the countless entries doing the same thing, only better. It’s surplus to requirements, and it offers little to compel the player to care.
If you’re looking for a story or any sort of framework, it doesn’t exist here. You are the stereotypical robber, wearing a hat and a striped shirt and a stubble-covered chin. You know, the sort of obvious coding for thug that I don’t think anyone, anywhere, has actually worn. That sort of thing. You rob places, because I assume at the point in your life when you find yourself looking that way you have no other options in your life. Destiny has spoken for you.
Perhaps the game takes place in some sort of twisted alternate dimension, wherein you are simply born into the world with aught but avarice and an inability to find other meaningful work. It is possible that this is penance or purgatory for souls who knew naught but desire. I suppose thinking of it that way makes up a little bit for the paucity of anything else to think about.
Right! Game mechanics. You are a robber. You are on a field with other robbers. In fact, as “robberies” go this is somewhat… not. Money falls onto the floor, and your goal is to scoop it up and bring it to the getaway van. Meanwhile, the other similarly-attired robbers on the field are trying to do the same, which means that the whole thing devolves into desperately punching the other people on the field, collecting powerups, and stealing money in the hopes of turning it in and collecting a bit more toward victory.
To be fair, there are two other modes in which these central conceits are arranged in a slightly different fashion. To be unfair, I honestly don’t care. Unless one of them suddenly turns the whole thing into a tense stealth affair… actually, that would make things worse, but the point is that however much more the full game might contain, it doesn’t change the central banality of the state of the game.
See, yeah, all of it works. But it doesn’t do so with any particular panache or charming elements. All of the classical problems of these sorts of top-down multiplayer slugfests remain and are unchanged; gameplay frequently devolves into punchfests around a single point with no one gaining a real advantage, and after a round or two of solid performance the whole thing is basically locked down with no real hope for recovery outside of terrible maneuvers by the person in the lead. Aiming is a crapshoot, AI is sub-par, and so forth.
It feels like a game wholly for its own sake, without any reason or particular charm to it. And it does so with a multiplayer competition, which makes the procedure feel less interesting, compared to the similarly themed but magnificently better Monaco, which sees players working together to plan the perfect heist. I’m usually far more interested in co-op play than straight competition, simply because co-op results in interesting player dynamics and shared victories instead of any possibility of bitterness or recrimination.
The fact that the game’s store page indicates that the multiplayer function does not actually work is just icing on an ass-shaped cake.
Local multiplayer could, in theory, be an option, but again – it has none of the aspects that would make you enjoy the game. It has a series of unlockables, but both perks (i.e. actual things that improve your characters) and the scant customization options derive from the same currency, which means that you have to make a constant choice of whether you want to do better or you want to look better. Not that you can see most of the customizations in actual play – everything’s moving into degenerate punch-a-thons so quickly that your character and other characters become colored blobs on the screen.
Is it fun? Moderately, I guess. I am sure that you could eke enjoyment out of it with friends, or if you were doggedly dedicated enough to getting good at the festival of punching in whatever corner it’s going down. But that seems like a whole lot of work to put into a game that wants to be Bomberman by way of Monaco without the tricks that actually make both of those games fun to play even while alone.
There’s nothing here to make you want to play or keep playing, no stakes to care about, no narrative, nothing at all. It’s just plain boring. Which is the greatest crime you can commit in a medium designed to alleviate boredom.