Modern Sonic games have never been big on player agency. Sonic Adventure, often heralded as the last great escapade of the spiky speed freak, was to all intents and purposes a game about pushing 'up' on a joypad for five hours before helping a cat catch some fish.
The precision platforming of the classic 16-bit games has long since been abandoned for the illusion of speed, and Sonic Dash is the ultimate outcome of that shift. Here's a game where you don't even have to push forwards any more.
The result is an endless-runner with some of the charm of early Sonic titles and a handful of fondly remembered tunes. It won't change anyone's opinion of Sega's fading mascot, but will probably keep you entertained anyway.Green spinning hills
Sonic Dash eschews the tilting formula of Temple Run and opts for a three lane track which you swipe yourself across. Swiping 'down' puts Sonic in one of his trademark buzzing spins, and swiping 'up' makes him leap over obstacles.
You'll pelt along runways made up of familiar Sonic-themed sights. The green rolling hills, crab-shaped enemies, heavenly blue skies, and massive number of gold rings are all here. There's no room for innovation in the landscape - you're sprinting across childhood memories like Sonic 4 never happened.
And as you sprint, spinning into enemies, grabbing handfuls of rings, and leaping over the various spikes and pits, you're building up your 'Dash Meter'. This sits at the bottom right of the screen and when it's full you can unleash a burst of speed.
Once you do that you don't even have to steer for a bit. Sonic will zoom off in a blur of podgy spikes, smashing through anything that gets in his way, until the bar is empty, the screen flashes, and you're back making sure he doesn't run into walls.Ring it through
The rings you collect are no longer for extra lives, although they do still act as a barrier against death from enemies and spikes. Instead, they're used to purchase boosts and bonuses from an in-game store.
Bumpers at the end of each section of the game bounce you into the air, letting you either bank the rings you've already collected or perform a series of quick swipes to shift to a different part of the world.
Red rings, which are collected for completing challenges or beating friends, can be spent on revival pills and new characters, but they're given out rarely in the game, so if you're desperate to play as Tails or Knuckles you'll have to spend some cash.
The monetisation is a little uncomfortable, mainly because this is a game with a £1.49 price tag already. You can play without spending anything extra, but in a game that focuses on one-upping friends on the leaderboard the purchases do feel a bit pay-to-win.Ever moving forward
This isn't Sonic at his finest, then, but it's by no means Sonic at his most dismal either. There's fun to be had creeping up the leaderboard, and the speed the game plays at means it's a more trying test than a lot of other endless-runners out there.
While Sonic Dash might represent another nail in the coffin of the inspired platforming of the Mega Drive days, for most that isn't going to matter. Nowadays, Sonic is all about speeding forwards, even if that means leaving his best years behind.