Friday, March 8, 2013

Demo Friday: Yes, demos do kill sales

Let's see if I can back date this...

Big money! Big prizes! Oh wait...
Ripping into a game usually gives me a sick warm feeling, the kind that you enjoy and then feel guilty about later, only I never feel bad about it because I am an irredeemable cynic. Dollar Dash looks and feels more like a student project done for a grade than a game that was released on a console for general consumption. If that was indeed the case then I give it a solid if disappointing D+ and a kick in the ass to do better next time.

Nope, this is a real game by a (new) real company, Candygun Games, and it isn't even their first game, so all bets are off. Dollar Dash is awful from top to bottom. It is the worst parts of Calling All Cars! without the limited charm than David Jaffe brought to the table. Synopsis: player controls a bank robber who competes with other bank robbers to collect money and return it to a getaway van. Various power ups are provided to ensure mayhem. Translation: someone crossed Mario Kart with Smash TV and we are all suffering for it.

Of all the things that annoyed me about Dollar Dash it was the most basic failure that made me turn it off: the netcode. My tolerance for bad notcode is probably less than most as I play Street Fighter exclusively online and it works well enough for me to hit one frame links on occasion. (Note, Street Fighter runs at sixty frames per second, giving a one frame link a 1/60th of a second window). That is my frame of reference and my proof that it can be done. Dollar Dash suffered from, at its best, a half second input delay. That is forever. I could make a sandwich and take a piss in the time it took for me bank robber to take aim, fire, and subsequently miss whatever he was aiming at. If you are going to build an online game and don't have the chops to write your own netcode at least have the decency to license GGPO. 

Good netcode would not have saved Dollar Dash, but it would have made a bad game playable. I suppose I should be pleased that it instead made a bad game unplayable.

Sweet, two Mario Kart references in one post

Everything thought they were the best at Mario Kart.

WRC Powerslide is an interesting idea: competitive rally driving with power ups. Rally courses are usually more narrow than standard courses which could lead to tense wheel to wheel driving. For the most part, Powerslide delivers. The field is limited to four cars whose handling is a fair mix between the arcade settings of other rally racers and straight kart racing. Some real life physics are applied to the cars, T-boning someone will general flip them on their side, an very effective tactic, but there is a magic e-brake button that makes impossibly sharp corners  navigable. 

If anything Powerslide does not embrace its kart racing side enough. The power ups are sparsely available and boring to use. No blue shell here. No one liked the blue shell but it kept things close without resorting to rubber banding, which Powerslide uses in abundance, and almost always in the players favor, which can lead to boring races. 


The other killer here is the camera. It does a good job being active and keeping up with hairpin turns but this is at the expense of a clear view of the car at all time. Rally courses are, to put it lightly, complex. Sharp corners with drastic changes in elevation obscured by trees are the norm and losing sight of your car happens far too often. The camera is set back a little further than real rally games to accommodate multiple cares and lightning bolt attacks, but being able to pull it in would fix this entirely. 

I titled this 'demos kill sales' for a reason. WRC Powerslide is a pretty good kart racer. If there was no demo and I was making my decision based on screen shots and bullet points I may have picked it up. Now that I have played it the demo has given me all of the game that I need. I allowed me to see how shallow the game really was and saved me a couple of dollars in the process. 

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