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Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum (NES) artwork

Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum (NES) review


"Who could forget the feeling that you had wasted all those weeks of allowance after purchasing Dash Galaxy? You felt like you worked your tush off for a meager prize and you refused to be disappointed by it. You wanted to finish it to get your money's worth, but you knew you would never succeed. "



Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum assetWhere were you when Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum hit shelves? Don't recall, do you? That's not uncommon, given Dash Galaxy is such a forgettable title. Those of us who have played the game and managed to not forget it remember where we saw first Dash Galaxy, and it was usually either the bargain bin at a department or toy store or in the “previously viewed” section at a rental store. Dash Galaxy is like Catwoman or Shadowrun or XIII. You could find it in just about any bargain bin across the country, and there was a good reason why it was there.

Who could forget the feeling that you had wasted all those weeks of allowance after purchasing Dash Galaxy? You felt like you worked your tush off for a meager prize and you refused to be disappointed by it. You wanted to finish it to get your money's worth, but you knew you would never succeed. The lamentable story always begins on floor 00 where an elevator coughs you up. Despite thinking this would be a great side-scroller adventure, you start off performing rudimentary block-pusher puzzles to gain access to the levels. Later floors have barriers that can instantly kill you unless they are deactivated. At no point do these puzzles become anything brilliant and mind-blowing. You push blocks, maybe deactivate a barrier or two, and that's it. It was an obvious attempt at relevance, and Beam Software dropped the ball. All of the puzzles are simplistic, and many require the barest minimum of brain power.

Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum screenshotTwenty-five overhead floors make up the game, each with four different side-scroller levels. The objective is not at all apparent. You have two options on floor 00: 1) push a few blocks aside and check out the platformer levels, or 2) go back into the elevator and advance to the next floor. The platformer levels are not necessary for completing a floor, and the only purpose they serve is to hold keys and bombs necessary to shut down or destroy barriers.

Each of these levels is a struggle against awkward controls while incessantly collecting items. In order to complete a level, you need to grab all of the switches. But those aren't what we're after; it's the bombs and keys. You will notice, however, that many levels don't have either bombs or keys and are only there to waste your time and possibly cause you to unduly lose a life.

Collecting these items is no walk in the park. You must navigate a setup of haphazardly placed platforms, enemies, traps and trampolines. It's up to you and your trusty running and jumping capabilities to weave around the hazards and collect the necessary goods. A certain flavor comes to mind: vanilla. There is no action or suspense, or anything terribly exciting. You jump from one place to another, maybe run “fast” a few times, and that's it. The awkwardness comes in when trying to maneuver Dash. While standing still Dash can jump high, but not far. It's difficult to tell how far over he can move or whether or not you'll be able to make some of the high jumps because of the stiff controls. Other events require you to get a running start--one where you go from “slow as an old man with broken hips” to “just plain slow”--to perform a long jump. The trouble is it's difficult to tell just where Dash is going to land, and you'll often wind up plummeting into a pit.

Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum screenshotDash has many other perils to deal with, and enemies are the least of them. Most of them move as slowly as he does and only act as a minor threat to his oxygen supply. Bumping into an enemy doesn't knock you back, and you can run through them while your oxygen slowly depletes. Even if you feel threatened by them, you can always drop one from your limited supply of bombs to take them out...as well as yourself. Dropping a bomb in a level will kill you no matter where you are in relation to it. The only way to survive a bomb attack is to collect enough stars to become invincible, but then what's the point? Why even include a weapon when enemies are such minor threats, and why include one so volatile, not to mention one that's necessary for a more important task?

Navigating slapped together levels packed with pointless enemies while struggling against awkward controls at a snail's pace makes you want to avoid playing the platformer levels and just find a way to advance from one floor to the next. A few floors have barriers right next to the elevator, so you do have to explore a couple levels and gather some items at least. Do that and you can watch levels fly by....06...07...08...09....

And that's where the elevator disappears. Nothing will bring it back, not bombing it, not exploring the levels, nothing. Even if you complete every platformer level from 00 to 09, the elevator will not return. If you've traveled to this floor, then you're screwed. You don't realize it yet, but you're stuck there until you run out of lives. It turns out that you were supposed to search one of the levels on floor 06 to find a warp that takes you to floor 10. You don't get any clues in the game or in the instructions, so how you were supposed to know this is a mystery. A large portion of Dash Galaxy is guesswork. You have to guess you're heading into a level that isn't useless, hope that the warp you're about to go through doesn't take you to another dead end, and experiment with all of the tedious platforming levels for a chance that maybe, just maybe, you'll find the correct path.

There is actually a way to visit as few side-scroller levels as possible to grab a minimal number of items and beat the game in under ten minutes. 90% of the Dash Galaxy is unnecessary, only placed there to seem relevant. That would make 90% of the game a complete waste of time.

As a lover of my free time, that's something I can't abide. Some might argue that Super Mario Bros. was the same way since it gave you the ability to warp, but at least Mario featured gameplay amazing enough that experiencing the “redundant” levels didn't feel like a waste of time. Sometimes warping felt like a real waste because it meant that you didn't get to experience some of the most fun and challenging levels Mario offered. Dash Galaxy's redundant levels feel even more so thanks to the tedious gameplay and irksome controls. Such gameplay doesn't justify playing a game where all you do is bump around in the dark and hope you're headed to the right place.

Too bad, because Dash Galaxy could have been a great game. It seemed like Beam Software had the right idea in changing up the platformer formula. It was implementing the idea that killed them.

Rating: 3/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (July 18, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Masters posted July 18, 2011:

Hi Joe! Your review did not have an excerpt chosen for it, and as such, the site populated the excerpt box with some default blurb that I'm sure you didn't want introducing your piece.

I went in and chose an excerpt, but I realize you may want something different. Let me know, and I'll go in and change it. (Unless you can edit it yourself? I'm not clear on this.)
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JoeTheDestroyer posted July 18, 2011:

D'oh! I always forget to pick an excerpt. Thanks, Marc. That one will do.

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