Rubber duck races are a staple of charity fundraisers, with big regattas like the Charleston Duck Race unleashing thousands of bath toys upon unsuspecting rivers every year. Dash & Bash isn’t nearly as grand as that, but this duck racing game has something the real events have never seen: Evil beavers.
Dash is an adorable rubber duck chasing championship dreams. His rival Bash is the reigning champion, a snickering beaver who’ll do anything to win. As antagonists, Dash and Bash may not measure up to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, but they’ve got as least as good a grudge match going as Rovio’s birds and pigs.
You play Dash as he races through a series of side-scrolling waterways, beating qualification times and earning the privilege of racing Bash himself. Each win earns you coins, which can be traded in for colorful “outfits” that are really faster ducks.
This is no quiet float down the river, though. Bash and his minions have gotten as busy as — well, beavers — and constructed a series of dams and traps to slow Dash’s progress. Dash has to dive under and fly over the obstacles while gobbling power-ups to win the races.
The controls are simple: tap and hold below the waterline to make Dash dive, tap and hold above the waterline to make him fly. There are no buttons to hunt for, and Dash has a natural resting position in the middle of the screen. We loved the ergonomics of these controls, especially on the iPad — the most comfortable way to grip the device is also the most efficient way to play the game.
The level design is a lot like the controls. There are five worlds with five levels each. They’re colorful and detailed, with graphics and sound that would fit a Mario game well. The difficulty curve is smooth, and there’s a new obstacle or power-up introduced every two or three levels.
There are plenty of obstacles to dodge, especially in the later levels. You’ll encounter walls that slow you down, electrical shocks that freeze your controls, missiles that you have to dodge, and even “Jestas” that put a clown suit on your duck and reverse your controls. Fortunately, you can also gather blue-turbaned “Duckeenis” that make you invulnerable and little yellow birds with slingshots that destroy oncoming obstacles.
If all this sounds familiar (suspiciously so, in the case of the slingshotting birds), it should. Dash & Bash isn’t going to win any awards for originality. We enjoyed seeing each new feature, but none of them surprised us.
That said, the levels are well-paced and reward practice. This is a game where if at first you don’t succeed, you’ll see yourself getting better with every try. Getting good enough to unlock the next level is easy, but playing the level perfectly so you can beat Bash will take a lot of work. It’s that pursuit of perfection that makes Dash & Bash fun.