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Sonic the Hedgehog's rough modern history on consoles is well-documented, and his traditional iOS entries have likewise been hit-or-miss. Lately, Sega's tried to improve the blue blur's fortunes on the App Store by pairing his iconic look and abilities with tried-and-true mobile formulas. Sonic Jump aped the Doodle Jump formula with middling results, and now Sonic Dash aims to put the hero into a behind-the-back endless runner. While it's certainly a better thematic fit than the former title, this awkward entry never quite finds its footing.
No doubt, Sonic Dash nails the vibrant look of the source material, sending Sonic or one of his notable compatriots (like Tails or Knuckles) vaulting headfirst along a pathway filled with springy jumps, enemies, and gravity-defying loops to roll through. It's a bit like playing a classic Sonic side-scroller from a new perspective (and you'll still collect tons of rings along the way), but this is still a 3D endless runner at heart. You'll swipe to jump, roll, and change lanes while attempting to dodge obstacles, all in an effort to run up your score to topple others on the online leaderboards. And like most runners, you'll always have a trio of quick-hit objectives to clear, which help you boost your score multiplier over time.
Endless runners thrive on flow, however, and the best ones keep the scenarios, mechanics, and controls simple enough to let you focus on the twitch reactions needed to survive at the highest levels. Much as Sonic Dash looks the part, it never hits that balance, and as a result feels disjointed. Hazards that require rolls, jumps, and strafing movements to overcome are often placed in quick succession, but jumps are difficult to judge from the fixed perspective, and we sometimes had swipes fail to register as inputted, resulting in a frustrating demise. What should be a speedy test of reflexes instead tends to feel like an awkward obstacle course with little terrain variety.
Moreover, the game irritates with its constantly-suggested in-app purchases, which let you buy boosts and hugely beneficial power-ups with cash. Sonic Dash is incredibly stingy with handing out free red tokens, so we're not even sure how you'd manage to earn enough to unlock additional characters without spending a bundle, and some of the early mission objectives are focused on using power-ups that you'll more than likely have to purchase. For a game that sports a price point from the outset, we expected much less of a hard sell to take in much of what the total experience has to offer.
The bottom line. Sonic the Hedgehog seems like a perfect fit for an endless runner, but Sonic Dash fumbles the fundamentals and aggravates with heavy-handed in-app purchases.
iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone running iOS 5.0 or later
Nails the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog aesthetic. Almost feels like a side-scrolling entry brought to life from a behind-the-back view.
Awkward controls and action lead to short sessions with sometimes questionable conclusions. Geared dramatically towards in-app purchases, and unclear whether some items can be unlocked strictly through play.