Review: Moscow Dash

MoscowDash_1

As you might expect, the perks of being a drug-runner on the post-nuclear streets of Moscow are truly top-notch: Dilapidated alleyways and subway stations to stroll through, no health insurance whatsoever, and constant bum-rushes by endless streams of bat-wielding thugs, angry bureaucrats and aggressive bag ladies.
Yes, aggressive bag ladies.

So it is in Moscow Dash, a well-intentioned but ultimately shallow 2D side-scrolling arcade shooter from Russian-based development shop Starkom. There’s some style and shoot ‘em up fun here—especially since you can get it for free in the App Store for a limited time—but that’s still scarce reason to invest your gaming time when there are better options elsewhere.

MoscowDash_2

To begin with, “dash” is a major misnomer, and not because this is a shooter and not a racing game. “Trudge” or “stroll” would be infinitely more accurate. Especially in the game’s early going, you’ll feel like your goateed courier is sludging through six feet of snow in Red Square as the hordes try to hem him into a corner. Grinding levels earns experience that you can use to notch health and speed upgrades to make things a little easier, but the gameplay never deepens beyond what you see in your opening play session. And even when you’re finally moving at what I’d characterize as a gentle jog, everything still feels a lot slower than it should.

Moscow Dash almost would have worked more effectively as a twin-stick shooter (think Robotron) rather than with the tap-and-shoot controls it sports instead. As it is, gameplay quickly devolves into circling back and forth across the confines of the level with the virtual left-stick control while waiting for a timer to count down to the point where your weapons will reload. You can bring up to three gun types into each of the game’s 70 levels–and if you’d rather spend more time scoring headshots than frantically dodging, you’ll plan accordingly.

MoscowDash_3

There are a few clever touches. Sometimes, enemies will drop runes that will give your weapons extra firepower modes and ammo clips, or provide you with friendly versions of enemy units. But your new friends fall as quickly to enemy fire as they do to your own bullets, so they’re only marginally helpful against the onrushing hordes; against the powerful, machine-gun wielding bosses that lurk at the end of each ambush level, they’re less than useless.

For a free game, Moscow Dash features a surprising amount of content, even if it blazes by quicker than your ammo does. Those who burn through all nine campaign settings can pay a buck to unlock timed survival arena challenges as IAP, but these don’t offer anything you haven’t seen already, so caveat emptor, kids.

Given the sheer number of enemies the game throws at you, it’s not at all surprising to see GameCenter achievements popping up on your iPad screen informing you that your killcounts have soared into the thousands. But even the thrill of copious carnage isn’t enough to make this Dash worth your time or (temporarily free) cash.

SkipIt

Pros:
+ Simple, mindless carnage
+ Stylized presentation

Cons:
– Shallow, repetitive gameplay
– Dude, your courier is a freaking turtle

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on iPad, also available for iPhone and iPod Touch
Publisher: Star Computers Trading
Developer: Starkom
Release Date: 6/18/2013
Genre: Side-scrolling shooter
Age Rating: 12+
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.