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These are reviews of the app, Sonic Dash.


7/10 Not content with taking the Doodle Jump formula and simply placing Sonic in it with Sonic Jump, Sega has tapped a new mobile avenue, the 3D endless runner. Surprisingly, this sub-genre is the one that actually suits Sonic the most -- perhaps more than any IP ever could.

But as you can imagine, with the problematic and pushy nature of in-app-purchasing, Sega's handling of the franchise in general, and some developer's inability to translate quality into the mobile arena, a whole heap of things could go wrong.

Thankfully, they mostly don't. Mostly.

Sonic Dash is one of "those" mobile games. You know, the endless-runner type that doesn't have a finite goal, and entices you with in-app-purchases to help you get "just a little further." But despite the fact that there's no endgame in sight, like Temple Run, it can be a great way to waste time in-between some of the more meatier offerings in the mobile market.

Where Dash truly shines is the set of very responsive controls, which I've found to be some of the best in the runner genre. Instead of a convoluted and dead-zone prone tilt method, you simply control Sonic by swiping left or right to switch between three lanes, up to jump, and down to slide.

That's it. It all works wonderfully well, and for the most part, Sonic does everything I want him to do with no issues. It's a stark departure from market leader Temple Run's forced tilt system, and an appreciated one.

Another area that wasn't skimped on are the aesthetics of the game, which are surprisingly beautiful on the iPhone 5 (users are reporting issues with earlier iPhone models). The draw distance is fairly well done, Sonic himself looks colorful and great, and the world is faithfully recreated and translated to Sonic Dash quite well, to the point where it doesn't feel like a knock-off in any way. With the right team, a full-on game using a modified version of this engine could easily be a reality.

But aside from that solid veneer, the lack of inspiration or effort starts to seep through the cracks. Mechanically, Sonic doesn't die if he hits an enemy with rings, which is a nice touch, but if he hits a wall, he instantly loses that run (barring your use of a revival power-up). It really kills the pacing of the game to say the least, when you add in the fact that certain checkpoints must be made to "bank" coins, lest you lose all of your progress during that part of the run. Losing a large amount of currency you've earned not only makes the player feel like he's wasted his time, but it also feels like an incongruous design to have one method "sort of" eliminate the run, and another method end it instantly.

A lack of variety also hurts the experience significantly. You'll encounter a whole two environments throughout the game: the Green Hill Zone, and the Seaside Hill Zone. That's it. After a few hours, looking at the same exact scenery that you've already seen a million times at the start of nearly every Sonic game devolves the experience into a chore. Like Sonic Generations, a solid variety of stages would do nothing but help the game, and I sincerely hope that more levels are in the cards for a future update.

In-app-purchases range from "not needed" to "pretty damn annoying." After every run, a "tip" will come up on the screen, usually having nothing to do with that particular run, that advertises an IAP of some sort. This was less acceptable when the game had a $1.99 pricepoint, but now that it's free, it doesn't bother me as much.

Honestly, if you keep doing the challenges (of which the rewards have been upped since launch), you shouldn't feel the need to buy anything outside of the exorbitantly-priced characters, which are optional anyway; if you don't want to earn the stars to buy every character, it'll cost roughly $15.

Sonic Dash isn't a bad game, but it could stand to be much better than it is in its current state. With more zones and less weighty in-app-purchases by way of an update, Dash could be one of the more enticing endless runners on the market. As it stands, you might find yourself picking this up, and running right past it after a fleeting sense of enjoyment. But said time with it will undoubtedly be enjoyable, nonetheless.


When Sega's Hardlight Studio released Sonic Jump last year, I shook my head. Jumping is not the ability Sonic the Hedgehog is known for. This week Hardlight has released endless runner Sonic Dash on iOS. That's more like it.

How do you make a good 3D Sonic the Hedgehog game? You take a bad one and cut away all the unappealing bits. That's exactly what Sonic Dash is — the best bits of the 3D console games, without all the filler.

See Sonic the Hedgehog. See Sonic run. See Sonic run fast. See Sonic spin dash to avoid obstacles and kill enemies. See Sonic collect coins to activate his Dash power, rendering him blindingly fast and invulnerable for a short time. See Sonic clear large jumps using his Homing Attack.

It's a simple formula that works incredibly well for the character. There may be dozens of endless runners out there (five came out this week alone), but there's always room for Sonic. The genre fits him like a glove.

Sonic Dash is also an incredibly pretty game, using assets that look as if they were lifted directly from its console cousins. They're so stunning that you can almost forgive the fact that every time you die you have to wait for what are essentially ads for the game's own in-app purchases before continuing. I came really close to accidentally purchasing $34.99 worth of rings last night while stabbing at the screen to continue.

See? Pretty. I've completely forgotten the complaint from the previous paragraph.

As lovely as it is, Sonic Dash could use a little more personality, perhaps the story mode that made Sonic Jump playable despite the speedy hedgehog misuse. Hardlight promises updates in the app's iTunes description, so maybe there's hope yet.

When I load up a Sonic the Hedgehog game, there are two things I want to do: run fast and kill some animal robots. This'll do nicely.


When Sonic Jump hit the App Store last year, no one wanted to hear about how it was actually a totally good game. Everyone just wanted it to be a Sonic the Hedgehog endless runner. Sonic is a mascot focused on going as fast as possible, as often as possible. And no mobile game genre is hotter than the endless runner. It’s a no-brainer, right?

And yet… here we are.

Sonic Dash isn’t a bad game. The gameplay is fast-paced enough to live up to the Sonic name, and the cheery visuals & classic Sonic sounds are always good for a solid dose of nostalgia. But it is a bland, unoriginal game. Combined with its overabundance of cynical In-App-Purchase ploys and it’s tough to recommend wholeheartedly. Dash offers up a Sonic-themed take on hit freemium endless runner Subway Surfers. Sonic runs through the environment automatically and you swipe left or right to move between three distinct lanes. Swiping down activates an enemy-destroying spin dash and swiping up jumps. The gesture controls are snappy, responsive and accurate. I never once had a run end prematurely due to a swipe not registering.

You'll dash below overhangs and through enemies, jump over spikes and wind your way through the environment until eventually the action gets too fast and you make a mistake. Here you're presented with the first of many upsells. For just one red ring you can continue your run. 30 Rings can be purchased for $3.99.

There are no levels to dash through or single-player missions to complete. Climbing the leaderboards to best your friends and Game Center opponents is your only goal. But you can literally pay your way to the top of these leaderboards if you’re willing to spend enough premium red rings. I’m in fifth place on my friends list. Are my four friends just better than me, or did they pay up? I have no way of knowing. Sonic Dash is a leaderboard-centric game where you can’t trust the integrity of the leaderboard.

Although the controls themselves never lead to my death, the same can’t be said for Sonic Dash’s level design. Nearly every run in Sonic Dash ends with you jumping over an obstacle and immediately landing on an out-of-sight enemy. Frustrating. Doubly so when you’re immediately asked if you want to spend a premium ring to continue.

The standard golden rings you collect can be banked during a run and spent afterwards in a power-up shop on all the usual boosts – head starts, ring magnets and a super dash boost. There is literally no upgrade or item that hasn’t been seen before. If coins are accumulating too slowly for your taste you can purchase a coin doubler for $3.99 or coin packs for $0.99 - $49.99.

The Verdict

Racing through Sonic Dash’s idyllic locales can be a lot of fun. Sonic rushes through the environment at an appropriately breakneck pace and the swipe controls actually manage to keep up. But the game plays it too safe – there is nothing here that hasn’t been done before. This combined with its pay-to-win leaderboard environment makes Sonic Dash an unexceptional experience.


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6/10 I can remember when a new Sonic the Hedgehog game was the biggest story around. I remember live-action adverts, Sonic 2s-day, the disbelief at those first magazine photos of the Sonic & Knuckles cart. "Among Mario's clones," Shigeru Miyamoto told Edge magazine in the late 1990s, "Sonic is a good one." Originality was never the hedgehog's strong point. Even so, copying Temple Run seems a long way to fall from Super Mario.

Viewed from a more optimistic angle, at least the endless running genre's a good match - indeed, Sega's investors may well wonder why it's taken so long. And I mention the moneymen because, while there's good stuff to talk about with Sonic Dash, the entire game is framed and ultimately spoiled by in-app purchases. Sonic Dash costs £1.49 upfront and uses rings and red stars as currencies - the former picked up and banked in-game, the latter awarded rarely and used to unlock new characters and buy continues. The standard ring-doubling booster will set you back £2.49 - pretty cheeky, I thought - but even with this you'll acquire upgrades at a snail's pace, and without additional purchases or some pretty dedicated play it won't unlock more than one character, if that. So: £4 for an endless runner, and a few more quid each if you fancy playing as Knuckles or Tails.

This probably wouldn't annoy me so much if Sonic Dash didn't have a habit of telling you to buy £19.99 packs of rings and stars after a game over. It asks directly for more money multiple times during every session in a manner so brazen and intrusive, it feels shoddy. Sonic is first and foremost a children's character, one that specifically appeals to young boys; I know this, so Sega knows it a hundred times over, and yet it has decided to release a product that demands cash from players again and again for things like power-ups. Honestly, when did three lives get replaced with purchasable revive tokens? Just because you can do something, as the saying goes, doesn't mean you should.

I have a lot of sympathy for developer Hardlight, because the (not so) micro-payments are down to Sega, and outside of these the studio has crafted a speedy and fun take on the genre; not quite Pitfall, but better than Temple Run. The randomly-generated zones are filled with classic obstacles and enemies zooming towards you at an ever faster rate, and are showed off by some fantastic camerawork as Sonic zooms through long, twisting paths and loops. Rings are everywhere, which protect Sonic from a single enemy hit but not a collision, and can be 'banked' between zones to gradually level up the hog.

Perhaps more important than anything visual, however, are the sound effects - the tinkling of rings and sproingy springs that instantly put you back in the Green Hill Zone at the age of 10. When you get hit, the rings still burst out of Sonic with that unmistakeably calamitous jangling - a sound that still captures, better than any other, the sheer annoyance of running into a giant enemy crab.

There is a good game here, and enough nostalgia to mask - for a while at least - the obnoxious shilling. Sega seems to find it hard enough to make a decent Sonic game these days, and then it goes and publishes something like Sonic Dash - which with a little more polish could be great, but is instead rushed and spoiled by greed. I'm sure it will make an awful lot of money. And it also makes you think about how some characters change with the times, while others become also-rans.

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