We’ve faced huge challenges before as a game reviewer, but this is a new one: how can we possibly get a full-length game review out of Box Dash?
Here’s the problem. Or sequence of problems, chained together to make a problem-ipede. Box Dash is numbingly, ridiculously simple. It’s an auto-scrolling platformer where you have a single jump button. There’s no double-jumping or wall-jumping here. Oh no, that’s far too this-century. This paragraph alone has probably given you a near-complete idea of how Box Dash plays.
It’s also virtually identical to every other game that RiceFun Games have put out. Box Dash is Fantasy Dash, which is Mushroom Run 2D. We’re not being cynical here: these games are all effectively the same, give or take a new sprite-sheet and some moving around of blocks. When Fantasy Dash launched, we were confused about the lack of anything ‘fantastical’ in the game at all. It could have been called Box Dash, which shows how interchangeable these games are.
Bah, let’s keep writing and see how far it gets us. The first thing you should know is that Box Dash, being a 79p game (don’t be fooled by the ‘Reduced from £3.29’ tag: we will eat our hats if it ever goes up to that price), has no Xbox achievements. You are paying 79p for a game without Gamerscore, so check that expectation at the door.
There are three difficulty modes. The rudely named ‘Practice Mode’ is not what it sounds like. Rather than a tutorial, it is the game’s thirty levels played at a much slower speed, so you can get used to the layouts and foster the reactions needed to play on the other difficulty settings. While the other Dash and Run games have a Practice Mode, none of them are this slow, and it’s the only real change to the previous games. In all honesty, it’s a winner. It makes an otherwise impenetrable game possible, and the average gamer can feel the satisfaction of actually completing a level.
Otherwise, there’s a normal difficulty and expert difficulty, with the speed of the main character ramping up. In expert mode, you will absolutely hurtle through the levels, and we have no idea how human beings could possibly evolve to complete them. Hardcore speedrunners will rejoice, but we almost immediately noped and went to play the other difficulties.
There are thirty levels to play, with three stars on offer for each. Bop three weird crawling rocks on the head as you play, and you will generate all three stars. Those stars don’t actually do anything, of course: what did you expect from your eighty pence?
The levels whizz past at speed, but they’re not particularly short. You can be hurtling through a level with death approaching every couple of centimeters, and still not reach the end of the level for two minutes. That makes Box Dash a constant deathtrap, and extremely punishing. There are no checkpoints here: you have to navigate its pitfalls in one go, or be dumped back to the start.
Which would be fine if the controls were responsive, but – like the other RiceFun Games – they very much aren’t. You’ve got a tiny, apologetic jump which barely gets you over a single-block obstacle, and it leaves no room for mistakes. You can hold the jump button to do a sequence of jumps, but Box Dash likes to drop down platforms that don’t quite follow this sequence. There’s also a momentary delay after each jump, which can leave you with a spike lobotomy.
It’s a mocktail designed to infuriate, and it’s the reason why we’re intrigued about Expert Mode. Surely no player can wrestle these controls and complete a level at 120kph? We’re eager to watch a Youtube video of someone doing it, so, if you spot one, drop into the comments below. We’d be very grateful.
But what makes that 79p so expensive, a luxury that we’re not willing to pay, is that there is zero variety in the levels. No new obstacles get added. It’s just a conveyor belt of the same old spikes and blocks, pushed closer together to approximate difficulty. Since we made the same complaint in Fantasy Dash and Mushroom Run 2D, we’re not going to let Box Dash off for it either.
(Well, would you look at that – perhaps there was enough to talk about after all. This thin cheese slice of a game, with no calories and a feeling of emptiness after you’ve eaten it, was actually possible to discuss.)
Box Dash is the best of RiceFun’s trilogy of 79p Xbox platformers, by virtue of including a Practice Mode that is actually playable by a casual gamer. But in all other respects, this is a reprint of their previous games and, for that reason, it doesn’t deserve the small amount of cash they’re asking for. That and the fact Box Dash feels about as enjoyable and fluid to control as an actual cardboard box.
You can buy Box Dash from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S