Developer Incodra‘s Dub Dash is a rhythm game, which is a genre I tend to enjoy. The basic mechanics are extremely simple: you control a wheel on a track, and you have to tap or hold the correct side of the screen to spin said wheel to the rhythm of the music, avoiding hitting obstacles. Each level includes another mechanic as well, like the Flappy Bird-esque flying part in the second stage.
I should note at the start that this is not exactly the version of the game I originally intended to review. Downloading is as far as I got with Dub Dash for the PC, as decided not to work at all beyond that point. I couldn’t find any effective solutions online, though I learned that this is a fairly common problem. Even worse, my email to the publisher’s customer support department went completely unanswered. I was ready to give up until I learned that there was a free to play mobile version of the game. So, I figured I should at least give it a try.
I don’t have any issues with the overall game design, but I do take issue with a few things. For one, the game is exceedingly difficult. It took me around 20 tries to complete just the first level, which is largely a tutorial. Your timing has to be totally precise, and you don’t get much of a warning for where obstacles will be. I understand the appeal of a challenge, and I know that these games requiring super fast reflexes are becoming popular these days, so I can’t blame the developers too much. Still, I didn’t go in expecting Dark Souls, and a slightly more forgiving difficulty curve would be appreciated.
What makes it worse is that you start with only 5 chances to retry from a checkpoint. Not 5 per level mind you, but 5 total. Once you run out, you have a few ways to get more, but none are all that appealing. You can earn another one by completing daily challenges, but those are at least as hard as the normal levels. You can watch an advertisement for extra chances, but that option never seemed to work for me. Finally, you can earn another set of 5 by paying $3 to remove ads. I’d call it pay-to-win, but another 5 chances won’t make that big a difference.
The other issue I have with Dub Dash is the technical issues. Granted, this version actually starts, but there are some clear problems. Besides the option to get extra chances by watching ads not working, the game suffers from framerate issues. It’s usually fine, but every once in a while the game will briefly slow to a crawl. Naturally, this is a serious problem in a fast rhythm game, and it can definitely cause failures.
Gaming on phones can always be a bit iffy, but I know my phone is more than powerful enough to run this game. In fact, it seems like it might be the game’s own video ads that cause the problem. The ads are bad enough on their own; I recognize that they’re the trade off for the game being free, but when you’re trying the stage over and over, having your flow interrupted by a video ad is really annoying. Finally, for some reason the wrong music always seems to play when you activate Practice Mode (which gives you infinite lives but doesn’t unlock the next stage).
These problems make the otherwise decent gameplay more frustrating, but I can at least say that the music and visuals are cool. I’m not entirely up on my music genres, but I think these songs would fit somewhere under the techno label. Each level has a song by a different artist, and they are very catchy. Even if you don’t generally like that kind of music, I think you’ll at least be able to appreciate it. The songs also go perfectly with the visuals, which present your wheel rolling along a sphere with trippy neon colors and visualization-towers around it. It was this look that originally drew me to the game, and it definitely delivers. And if you really don’t like the music, I’ve found that the game isn’t any harder on mute; the music isn’t even necessary.
To some, the extreme level of difficulty in Dub Dash might be appealing. I admit that I feel very accomplished when I succeed. But considering that it took me around 75 tried to finish the second level in Practice Mode, it would be nice if there was more of a curve. Furthermore, the gameplay is hindered by the ads and limited lives that come with the game being free-to-play are incredibly frustrating. If you can forgive the technical issues, it’s not really a bad game; it’s just badly presented. It is genuinely fun if you’re looking for an extreme challenge, but you have to endure a lot of pain to enjoy it. I’d recommend giving the free Android version a try before spending any money on it; you’ll know pretty quickly whether it’s a good fit for you. Either way, stay away from the PC version, because there’s no guarantee you’ll even be able to start it.
Gameplay - 5/10
Design - 9/10
Difficulty - 3/10
+ Cool graphics and design
+ Catchy music
+ Usually smooth gameplay
– No difficulty curve
– Technical issues
– Very limited lives