Review: Dub Dash


Dashing through the wubadubadub

Rhythm games are always interesting because of how much emphasis rests on the music. Don't like the music? Well, chances are you won't like the game, regardless of the mechanics. There's a lot of subjectivity there, which makes reviewing them a bit of a conundrum.

That being said, one thing must be true for rhythm platformers: the music and gameplay need to coagulate together to form a solid foundation that the entire game is based on.

Dub Dash (Android, iOS, PC)
Developer: Incodra
Publisher: Headup Games
Free-to-play with ads, $1.99 ad-free (Android), $2.99 (iOS), $4.99 (PC)
Release: October 7, 2015 (iOS), February 16, 2016 (Android, PC)

Dub Dash is a rhythm-platforming game that boasts an intense difficulty. Players move left and right in order to avoid obstacles, while an electronic techno beat plays in the background. Or I guess it's EDM music. Is there a difference? If there is, I don't know it.

Regardless, if you don't like that kind of music, this isn't for you. There's definitely variety within the genre, but doesn't stray from the same type of music. Personally, as someone who never listens to this stuff on purpose, I found the soundtrack's quality to range from "sounds alright" to rather enjoyable. Nothing sounded awful enough to stop me from playing.

One issue is that even enjoying the music, you're bound to hear it a lot. As mentioned, the game is difficult, which means a lot of retries. A single death forces players to redo the entire song. It's possible to gain "lives," allowing players to restart at the latest checkpoint, but doing so involves playing one of the same nine songs on a different course. It's easy to get tired of the music after so much.

The player controls a wheel of sorts, always rolling forward, and must avoid crashing into things. The main mechanic is "jumping" left or right over objects, usually on the downbeat of the song. Each of the nine songs introduces a new mechanic to the mix, but they're very hit-or-miss.

The worst mechanics are those that change the game from a top-down perspective to one from the side. One such mechanic acts like the old Helicopter Game, where holding a key causes a rise in altitude. This mechanic feels like it throws out the "rhythm" aspect of the game completely, and is incredibly dull and uninspired. Plus, it's a jarring transition from one perspective to the next. It can also feel impossible to react in time to the first obstacle after switching.

The other awful gameplay type is essentially a Flappy Bird clone, which is as bad as it sounds. Again, it loses its rhythm gameplay focus and feels imprecise and uninteresting.

Everything else works rather well. Some variations felt frustrating at first, but after getting used to them it was clear that they worked well and I just sucked. My personal favorite is when the wheel gets split in two and players must simultaneously manage both sides at once -- sometimes jumping at the same time. It's challenging in just the right way and satisfying to pull off to the beat.

What is interesting is that the "Challenge Mode" is actually the easiest mode. It only utilizes the jumping mechanics, the easiest to comprehend and execute. It will give players a song at random, and completing it awards players five lives, up to a total of fifteen. I would generally just restart the Challenge map until I got the easiest one, since I'm a sneaky little cheat.

There is no difficulty setting, but the player can influence it in a variety of ways. First of all, getting lives via the Challenge Mode makes it much easier to complete a song. Trying to pass it without messing up once is something players can choose to do in order to make the game harder. There are also three music notes scattered throughout each stage, and collecting them is anything but easy. Players can mix-and-match these playstyles in order to find a difficulty that suits them best.

The PC version also has local multiplayer, which governs the reason behind the price difference. Players all move along the map simultaneously, and the player with the least amount of mistakes wins. Dying eliminates a player until the next checkpoint, which instantly brings them back in. It's never too long between checkpoints, which means no one player will be doing nothing for too long. 

The transition from phones to computers could be much worse. The UI is very simple and large, but it does have full mouse support for the menus. Some of the loading screen tips are specifically catered to the phone crowd, but there's nothing that gets in the way of PC players other than some gaudy menu design. I tried to emulate phone controls with the Steam Controller, using the left and right touch pads, but it didn't feel any better than the keyboard controls. It's also possible to re-assign the controls to anything you'd like, which is a great touch.

There are some very bright moments within Dub Dash. When the music and gameplay jive together with interesting mechanics, it really does feel quite sublime. However, too often do poor mechanics or level design get in the way, causing more frustration than anything else. It's not a costly investment, which helps, but all things considered it is definitely more fit for a phone than a computer.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Dub Dash reviewed by Patrick Hancock



Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
How we score:  The destructoid reviews guide


Patrick Hancock
Patrick HancockContributor   gamer profile

During the day, he teaches high school kids about history. At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike. Disclosure: I've persona... more + disclosures



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