It seems the Age of Pokemon is slowly coming to an end. Fewer games, less market share and decreased overall interest has quelled the revolutionary kiddie behemoth. Hey, it was a good run while it lasted, and despite the childish overtones to the franchise, the gameplay concepts were always pretty solid.
Unfortunately, I think it just jumped the shark. If Pokemon is going to flame out, it's a shame to end with a game as ill-conceived as Pokemon Dash. This wack DS offering is shakier than an epileptic anime fan.
Pokemon Dash is essentially a racing game that lets you use the Nintendo DS stylus to control your Pokemon. In order to get your little freak to cross the finish line, you must repeatedly slide the stylus in the direction you want to travel'and that's it. The faster you scribble back and forth, the faster your Pokemon will move, and the faster you will likely scratch up your touch-screen. Rest assured, this control style won't be replacing Mario Kart's anytime soon.
Admittedly, there's a little more to it. You'll encounter a variety of different terrain, including roads, grass, sand, and water. While your Pokemon can easily reach top speeds on roads, it will move noticeably slower over grass and sand. However, you can offset this by collecting icons that correspond with the different terrain types (i.e. grass icons for grass, sand icons for sand, etc). This doesn't apply to water, though. Instead of collecting icons, you have to hop aboard a Lapras, a subservient Loch Ness monster thing that will ferry your butt over to distant islands.
Periodically, you can use balloons to cover large expanses of water. Once you collect some balloons, you just slide your stylus to the left or rightmost side of the screen and ascend into the air. Your shadow indicates where you will land; just slide your stylus in the same way you did to ascend in order to start your descent. As you float downward, you can pop your Pokemon's balloons to speed up the fall. If you land too quickly on something hard, like a rock, your Pokemon will be knocked unconscious for a few seconds. Presumably because of the trees, your Pokemon can't land in a forest; doing so will force you to try the descent all over again.
Taken together, these different elements result in gameplay that's far too simplistic for all but the most retarded DS owner. Navigating with the stylus might make sense, but that doesn't mean it's any fun, playing out more like a mini-game than a full fledged product. The mazes are incredibly basic and the competition much too easy.
Most importantly, there's no proper way to attack and disrupt the other racers besides just bumping into them. The lack of any fighting leads to a game that's bizarrely tame, especially considering that we're dealing with Pokemon, the cockfighting thoroughbreds of the game industry. With no proper combat, moves or technique, Pokemon Dash might as well be about racing hamsters.
For that matter, the game is missing all the depth that made the Pokemon franchise so successful in the first place. Not only does the game fail to take advantage of the different stats and attributes of the different Pokemon, there is no RPG progression scheme whatsoever. Pokemon Dash is Pokemon in looks alone.
The choice of modes is slim. Other than the basic single-player race campaign, there's a multiplayer option that lets you scrape your screen against up to 5 other players, provided everyone has a copy of this dumb game. While you can transfer over data from some of the Pokemon GBA games, this feature is only used to create forgettable maps instead of new playable characters or modes.
The game looks as simple as it plays. Filled to the brim with bright and cheery primary colors, there is nothing cutting edge or surprising about the look. It's like a more colorful version of the overhead maps from the Game Boy games, which is a disappointment considering the increased power of the DS.
Really, the most advanced thing in the entire game is the polygonal Pikachu head you can play with. Similar to the distortable Mario head from Super Mario 64, you can stretch Pikachu's cheeks and pull on his ears, and the dumb rat doesn't mind. Unfortunately, there is no way to stab Pikachu in the eye.
The audio is boring as well, thanks to the same saccharine pop tunes from every Pokemon game with a few Pokemon sound effects here and there. I choose mute!
It's pretty clear that Pokemon Dash is a game for very young kids, the 6 and under crowd, although I can also see this game appealing to grandmothers. The problem is, it's barely any fun for either demographic, and members of both might wind up trying to eat the stylus. Depending on how you feel about your little brother or grandmother, that might be the only good that could come of this game.