Pokemon is one of Nintendo's biggest gaming franchises so it is of no surprise they wanted a game on their new gaming system as soon as possible. Pokemon over the years as a game has had a mixed time but the portable versions have always stood out as a very impressive RPG titles. This time around, though, Nintendo have tried to create an offshoot franchise with mixed results. We expected Mario Kart to be the first kart style game from Nintendo for the DS, but Pokemon Dash beat it to the punch, and it proves that it takes a bit more than a few animals running around for a quality gaming experience.
There is no real storyline behind Pokemon Dash at all. You're not catching them all, you're not trying to fight Pokemon, you're just racing them and perhaps this is one of the game's biggest flaws. There is no reason to play it other than to unlock a few things which does not add much longevity and overall it really is a bit of a disappointment. The game modes boil down to two; cup or practice with practice only being the tutorial which is compulsory when the game is first turned on.
The other big surprise about the game is the fact you can only play as Pikachu. This goes against the whole 'gotta catch them all' mentality of the franchise and is another reason the game becomes quite repetitive and boring fast. So you run around as Pikachu in a race trying to beat other Pokemon? Well there is a bit more to the game than that.
As you run around you will discover that most tracks feature islands and considering Pikachu can't swim this can be a problem. The game solves this with ballons scattered around the place. Running over them will you put you in the air and this is where some strategy comes in. You have to guide the shadow to the next check point before descending and you can increase your descent by popping ballons at the correct time. However popping to early will stun the character when they hit the ground while popping to late removes the ability to race quicker so it is a game of centimeters in that respect.
Other than that the game really revolves around winning races and unlocking cups to race in. For those with Pokemon from the GBA, the game also offers the ability to unlock new tracks via this but this is a time attack mode with players having to complete each course in a set amount of time to unlock the next track. It would have been nice to see a bit more Pokemon style gameplay from the GBA cart such as being able to use the Pokemon you've gathered on the GBA but it has been left out.
Pokemon Dash features some cute graphics and decent soundtrack and effects but doesn't really push past the moderate game spectrum. It is a nice diversion from other games already on the DS and it does offer some unique gameplay, Nintendo just haven't done as much with the game as they probably should have.