Launch titles invariably fall into one of two categories; innovative titles designed to show off the capabilities of the new system or lazy cash-ins designed to soak up cash from early adopters with nothing to play. Pokémon Dash is one of those titles that plunges the second category to all new depths. As a début Pokémon title it is a kick in the face to all fans loyal to the franchise.
Pokémon Dash is a checkpoint based on foot racing game starring everyone’s favourite yellow rat. Why Pikachu has suddenly decided to turn athlete is never quite explained but then again it doesn’t really matter. Taking control of Pikachu it is your job to guide the little fellow to each checkpoint in turn by frantically rubbing your stylus across the touch screen. The check points are scattered all over the place so don’t expect any “tracks” in the traditional sense. Instead you have different terrain types that can slow your Pokémon down unless you guide him over the appropriate power-up first. Some checkpoints are too far away to reach by foot which is where the balloons come into play. By rising to the sky you have a birds eye view of your surroundings although you still have to assault your touch screen with a barrage of scratch inducing strokes in order to get anywhere. Once you spot the check point you can slowly descent or pop the balloons and send Pikachu plummeting down. The latter comes with the risk of stunning the little fellow if he its anything too had but can win you precious seconds if you are in a tight spot.
Pokémon Dash sounds like a good idea on paper and if it was included s a bonus mini game in a proper title wit wouldn’t have been so bad but as it is this is a case of license milking at its best. Out of all the Pokémon only Pikachu is available to players which would have been bad enough if the shoddy visuals didn’t make the notion of more characters useless. The game is viewed from a top down perspective but the limited scenery and large boring “tracks” does very little to draw you in. The game has almost no sense of depth and running around the large featureless landscapes is every bit as boring as it sounds.
There’s no fighting with the other racers or any trademark special moves to pull off so beyond the obvious cash-in potential there’s little reason for this mess to even bear the Pokémon name.
Owning the Gameboy Advance Pokémon titles gives you access to a few bonus tracks but when the core game is this bad its hard to imagine anyone persisting with it. There’s also a six player multi-player mode but finding enough other people who were suckered into buying this might prove to be a challenge. The audio compliments the repetitive gameplay nicely with some dull songs and mountains of Pikachu sound effects.
After playing this game extensively I cam away with very little positive feedback about it. While the game starts out easy enough to be almost insulting it soon skyrockets into the realms of frustration. If you thought this would be an ideal gift for a younger Pokémon fan with no skills then guess again. It’s disheartening to see Nintendo allow titles like this to represent one of their biggest brands and even more so as a demonstration of their new hardware. My advice would be to pass this one up even if you are a huge Pokémon fan. About the only fun to be had with it is using the stylus to pull Pikachu’s ears and tail on the title screen.
*Review originally published 2005.