Dashy Panda has simple one-touch controls and a minimalistic art style. Upon opening the free-to-play (FTP) game, we see our protagonist standing in the center of a cute, cartoon landscape. The game has no story; the only message we receive is “Tap Anywhere To Dash.” So there you are: a panda facing a gauntlet of spikes—that rhythmically pop out from the ground—a bowl of rice in between each obstacle.
With no further directions or messages, instinct kicks in (spikes, bad; rice, good): I start to tap and death ensues. But soon I get the hang of it. Each touch of the screen moves the panda, who will keep moving until you take your finger off the screen. Every bowl of rice awards you 1 point. Once I master the game’s single mechanic, my panda is gliding across the screen with ease, consuming two bowls of rice per tap (aka earning 2 points). But as soon as I get comfortable, the environment changes and I’m faced with new challenges—ones harder than predictable ground spikes. These environment changes occur approximately every 5-10 points and the order of the environments changes, avoiding stagnation. This is a big plus for your average gamer, someone who may not reach the top of the leader board, because they’ll still get to experience a variety of settings.
The changing environments are my favorite aspect of this game. You’re not just faced with spikes popping out from the ground, but spikes from above, deadly raindrops, giant snowballs, and more. Additionally, I have to applaud the extra mile on the graphics: clouds and pinwheels move subtly in the background and the panda’s expressions and accessories change from time to time: it’s a nice touch. On the logistical side of things, this free game does have ads, but you’ll be happy to know they’re not too invasive. Every four deaths an advertisement will pop-up, but they’re easily closed and can be removed for $1.99. The leaderboard displays nicely and includes a tab for “challenge” where you can try and beat your friends’ scores. When I click on my name, on the leaderboard, I am prompted to “share” the game (via text, email, Facebook, or Twitter) or “challenge friends” who are listed on the iPhone’s Game Center.
Overall, the mechanic of Dashy Panda never changes, but its different obstacles and environments help keep it fresh. Visually, Dashy Panda is a children’s drawing come to life. And while it’s undeniably adorable, entertaining even, the gameplay leaves little to be remembered. It doesn’t separate itself from other games in its genre. To me, this game would be a lot better if it was divided into short levels of increased difficulty—rather than one continuous play through. Dashy Panda is the kind of game you play to kill time while waiting for the bus and, personally, I’d rather spend that time doing other things.