There are games that are eager to please, that show a bit of leg with gorgeous graphics and a gentle difficulty curve. And there are games that feel like they’d rather you didn’t play them. Dashing Orange is in the latter camp. We never felt like it was interested in us enjoying it at all.
It’s certainly not a pretty game. We’re not sure what the aesthetic was going for: something that looks like it was scribbled in a school book? We could see that working, but Dashing Orange doesn’t quite have the charm to pull that off. It’s bland and sparse, more interested in keeping things clear than showing some colour, characters or detail. We’re sure it’s not the case, but it’s got an ‘eh, that’ll do’ feel to the presentation.
Dashing Orange is simple to a fault. You are an orange, and your aim is to get to an exit. Standing in your way are lots and lots of spikes. Dashing Orange clearly went to a Cash-and-Carry and bought its spikes in bulk. So, the gauntlet you’re running is a precise one, as you try to jump carefully through the spikes without popping on them.
Over the course of 75 levels, Dashing Orange does a decent job of sprinkling new moves and new obstacles onto the densely spiked layouts. Orange soon learns to double jump, wall climb, wall slide, dash and more, which is matched by the levels’ ability to chuck spike cannons, locked doors, fireballs and more at you.
For £3.29 that’s an awful lot of stuff. We’re not complaining about the sheer wealth of content that Dashing Orange chucks at us. It even comes at a fair rate, with new mechanics added in every three levels or so. But we fail to find any of it fun. Not even a smidgeon.
The biggest reason for that, by quite a margin, is how precise it wants to be. On one hand, it wants to be dense as hell. Some levels feel like every pixel is covered with something to dodge or jump between. It’s got no chill, and doesn’t care for difficulty pacing or moments of quiet at all. On the other hand, Dashing Orange wants to be utterly unforgiving. Snag a single pixel on a spike or fireball and you will shower the screen in orange. It’s common for both the floor and ceiling to be hazardous, so you have to time your jumps well and ensure you don’t jump too high, all while being yards from a checkpoint.
It’s that combo that really sinks our enthusiasm for playing Dashing Orange. Dense levels wait eagerly to punish you for the slightest mistake. A game needs to be absolutely fantastic, loaded with pay-offs and tight controls for that approach to work. It’s why Celeste works and Dashing Orange doesn’t.
It also puts heaps of pressure on the controls to be tight, but Dashing Orange is as soggy and loose as some spilt Fanta. The wall-climb in particular is our nemesis: there’s no rhyme or reason for how you jump off a wall. Sometimes it’s a whacking great leap; other times it’s a drop to the floor. When you are climbing from wall to wall with spinning blades on them, there’s no room for error. But errors are all you will be committing to.
We will offer an olive branch here: we are stupendously bad at Dashing Orange. There’s a case of ‘git gud’ that would be entirely valid. But we are fairly confident that putting anyone into a seat and handing them a pad to play Dashing Orange will lead to an instant lowering of their quality-of-life. It’s just not satisfying enough to make the punishment worthwhile.
Our favourite part of Dashing Orange is the glee it takes in your death. Nick yourself on a spike and you will die in a fountain of orange juice, and that juice sticks around. The level soon becomes a game of de Blob, as you paint the more hazardous sections with your internal juices. There’s fun to be had in looking back and seeing your death-graffiti.
But it’s not close to carrying Dashing Orange. It’s nothing more than a neat detail. Wipe it away and you have a packed platformer that couldn’t care less if you played it. It sets up a sequence of charmless levels, covers every inch of them with hazards, and then rubs its hands with glee as you die, over and over.
A platform speedrunner might find something in Dashing Orange. It’s an obstacle course for that player, in the same way a Spartan Run is for a jogger. But in our case, we wanted to give up repeatedly on Dashing Orange. This little orange was not for us.