Tiny Titan Studios’ Dash Quest (out now, free), is a game seeking to combine upgradable RPG stats — an endless-running aesthetic — and graphics styled after Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. While the game certainly isn’t bad — and you could definitely find worse free-to-play offerings — Dash Quest has still managed to be fairly-disappointing, although I definitely appreciated the game’s sprite-based presentation. However, before getting to precisely why Dash Quest rubbed me the wrong way — regarding factors where your personal mileage may vary — let’s first discuss the game’s mechanics (what little exist).
So — right of the bat — when you think of great Endless Runner games you probably begin thinking of carefully dodging/destroying various obstacles, and less so about mindless button mashing. While Dash Quest certainly features a protagonist charging eternally upward, the gameplay — save for those moments when you’re battling against bosses — simply lacks any of those things you’d normally associate with Endless Runners. Although you absolutely can block by hitting the screen’s left-hand side — and attack by hitting the screen’s right-hand side — you’ll soon learn that spamming the attack button is an excellent strategy, whereas block is primarily only used during boss fights.
The chief problem here is that lesser enemies will always be mass swarming you, and when you have ten — or more — minions in your face there’s little need for precision-based tactical blocking. Instead your chief means for progress will be to increase your damage output, such that you can mindlessly flail your way through these lesser minions much like that renowned hot knife through the proverbial butter. Alternatively some enemies are best thwarted via spamming magic, which means buying spells — upgrading them — and then ensuring your upgraded stats provide you with tons of disposable mana.
The boss fights — amazingly — are a different story altogether, seeing as how these hulking bruisers — rather than spending all their time up close — instead like to use discernible tactics. Taking a page from Nintendo’s Punch-Out, players seeking to defeat these mammoth monsters will need to learn their patterns — block their stunning projectiles — and quickly strike when they’re up close and unguarded. It’s a real pity the bulk of Dash Quest wasn’t more heavily focused upon these boss encounters, rather than those mindless minions, as they were genuinely the game’s most enjoyable moments.
There additionally exists a charge attack — meant to be reminiscent of Link’s blade beam maneuver — but it’s generally not worth the effort; seeing as how it sadly takes too long for the endless minion swarms, and is furthermore far-too-weak for those hefty bosses.
Anyways — getting back to topic — your primary goal during these runs are to collect tons of gold, valuable treasures, and spendable skill points (with which to upgrade your various stats/perks). The gold can be spent on purchasing new weapons/armor/pets (as well as sometimes upgrading them), whereas the treasures — involving things like chuggable potions and tossable bombs — may used mid-battle by tapping an icon. Meanwhile, those skill points — as one would expect — may be spent upgrading various options (with more upgradeable options becoming available as your hero’s level continues to climb ever-upwards).
What someone will quickly discover is that playing more carefully — beyond learning when spells help — won’t do much to help, but increasing your stats and gear will instead make a colossal difference! You can suddenly — after a few choice upgrades — go from struggling through a place to suddenly breezing by, no longer needing anything more than mindless tapping of the attack button to survive. In fact — if you stack more upgrades on top of that — you’ll soon be able to storm beyond mindlessly through an area unscathed, even if you never once take a single action (save for during the bosses)!
While the game certainly looks nice enough — and I definitely enjoyed the boss encounters — this right here is one of my biggest gripes with Dash Quest: the fact that stats/gear, rather than skill, account for virtually 99% of the total experience. In fact — if you keep levelling up those spells, gear, and/or stats some more — you’ll eventually hit a point where wildly swinging about will even help with those early bosses as well! Unfortunately the truth is that by the time you’ve reached an area where stuff begins truly bumping back, you’re already so out-classed by the monsters that no amount of deliberate effort will accommodate the vast stat differences between you and them.
Beyond the basic endless mode — which has two difficulty settings available — there’s also a story mode (which can be done to earn prizes), and a mini game mode (which unfortunately is less interesting than it sounds). Story mode runs you through a series of preset stages, each featuring a fixed end point (and playing these are needed to unlock the various options in Dash Quest’s aforementioned mini game mode). Mini game — meanwhile — instead pits you against endless versions of various areas, although there’s also an archery game resembling a mini game from Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past.
The final mode is an ever changing daily dungeon, wherein players are challenged to plunge deeply into a special conditions featuring locale — which, as the name suggests, won’t change for an entire day — although starter players won’t be ready for this at all.
Anyways, everything I’ve discussed thus far — despite the lack of any skill being needed — can admittedly be somewhat amusing to watch (a fact that is not entirely without its own merits). The chief problem is that such whimsy generally won’t hold up very long, although your personal mileage may well vary (so feel free to download Dash Quest if you’re still interested at this juncture). You might not want to use any of the game’s IAP features — however — considering the game’s final mechanic, which I’ve saved for last because — while not toxic by itself — it’s just rude to anyone actually paying.
At various points during Dash Quest you’ll be reminded that buying gold for upgrades — and pet orbs for pets — would be way more expedient than slowly grinding for them, although it’s also a somewhat dirty trick as well. While I inherently have nothing against single player games selling progress accelerants, the problem comes when — upon reaching level 60 — you discover a previously undisclosed game mechanic. At this juncture — much like various idle games — you may reset nearly all of your progress, in turn gaining an assortment of super permanent perks that’ll make your next time easier.
This by itself would not be inherently bad, but none of your gold — or even your rare pet orbs — will be returned in the process (and while I had nothing against grinding for either, per se, it would be a disastrous blow to anyone whom actually paid for these). I repeat that this doesn’t explicitly hurt anyone not paying for Dash Quest, but it’s certainly a fairly good reason for never throwing even a single cent at Tiny Titan’s app all the same. Couple this with the game’s lack of meaningful input required (except for during boss fights), and you have an app that — although not necessarily bad — is still something where you could easily find far superiors alternatives (even amongst free games).
Tiny Titan Studios’ Dash Quest seeks to be a merger of upgradable RPG stats — an endless runner aesthetic — all mixed with a presentation paying homage to Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, the problem is their game somehow went disappointingly wrong. Although the various boss fights — wherein you need to block and strike, much like Punch-Out — are certainly enjoyable, the rest of the game is primarily about mindlessly flailing about (with your stats being infinitely more important than proper skill). Although the game’s presentation may be enough for some, a further blow — aimed exclusively at those giving money to the app’s developer — occurs when you reach level 60 (wherein the game wants you to fully reset, costing you everything acquired thus far).
The grinding isn’t particularly bad
Fun boss battles
Minimal real gameplay
Disrespectful to players unfortunate enough to use IAPs