Some might say the beginning of video games is an inauspicious one. From the humble beginnings of Tennis for Two on to the simplistic action of Pong, early video games were very much about reflex and skill tests, absent the lengthy narratives and complex motivations of later iterations. That said, there’s still clearly something appealing about this sort of game, as mobile gaming and indie developers have taught us that we yearn for the simple things on a regular basis.
The mantra right now appears to be “simple doesn’t have to mean bad”. From battle royale-style games to .io titles, we’re eating up simplicity in game design. After all, we lead busy lives, and we don’t always have time to sit down to a War and Peace-style epic. This niche was criminally underserved prior to the appearance of the Internet, but now, thanks to browser-based games like David Marquardt’s Glitch Dash, we can all sit down to enjoy a quick blast of arcade action with no hassle and no fuss.
Glitch Dash offers up a refreshingly simple premise for its players in this overstuffed world of God of War and The Last of Us (both fine offerings, of course, but sometimes a little too…much). In Glitch Dash, you must reach the end of each stage, and there are several obstacles in your path which would rather you did not reach said end. At your disposal is a jump button, a shield (but only if you have one handy), and…well…not much else.
This might not sound like much to base a game around, but Glitch Dash is a stalwart proponent of the tried-and-tested back-to-basics method. The game is about as stripped-back as it’s possible to get; its visuals are impressive, but its gameplay is completely devoid of excess or artifice. What the game instead offers is 8 levels of unadulterated arcade fun. There are diamonds to collect if you’re of a mind to do so, but for the most part the joy of Glitch Dash comes from simply avoiding hazards and shooting for the high score. Let’s rewind a tad and explain what Glitch Dash is all about and we hope our review has you excited to give it a try and you will play it on Poki right now.
Glitch Dash is a first-person platformer with significant influence from the endless runner genre. Players don’t have to move forward themselves; rather, movement is automatic, apart from strafing left and right to avoid obstacles and collect diamonds. The game is controlled entirely with your keyboard’s arrow keys; up to jump, left and right to move, et cetera. The control scheme is nice and simple, which is always good because the ultimate goal for something like this is player-game synergy, and Glitch Dash achieves this admirably.
What this means in practice is that you’ll quickly start to feel a symbiosis between you and your faceless Glitch Dash avatar. You’ll intuit how to dodge each obstacle, the micro-movements required to collect diamonds, and exactly how those hammers swing (as well as how to avoid the pesky things). You’ll need that symbiosis, too, because Glitch Dash is pretty darn difficult. Oh, sure, things start off innocuously enough. The game’s unobtrusive introduction presents the player with a simple level to navigate, floating the controls near the top of the screen but never pausing the action to do so.
Once the introduction’s over with, though, the game quickly dispenses with any notion that it’s messing around, and it’s time to get down to brass tacks. Glitch Dash gets very hard very quickly, with obstacles jumping out at the player, stages rearranging themselves on the fly and switches which control and warp the geometry of the level. It’s all a lot to take in, so it’s testament to the quality of Glitch Dash that there’s never any feeling that the game has suddenly jumped or spiked in difficulty. The curve here is smooth and natural, echoing the player’s intended rate of grasping the controls and understanding the core concepts.
Don’t worry if you’re not super into difficult games, though, because Glitch Dash also has a very lenient lives system, as well as power-ups to help you if you’re stuck. Early levels will see you racking up the lives, and if you do lose one, you can activate a shield (provided you have one, but acquiring them is quite easy too) which will protect you from one hazard and allow you to keep running. Checkpoints, too, are pretty frequent, and the most Glitch Dash will ever prompt you to do to start from where you left off is watch a video. These videos are unobtrusive and won’t take up much of your time, so the trade-off is minimal.
Glitch Dash is all about the gameplay, but its sterling presentation deserves mention, too. The visuals are gorgeous; a psychedelic landscape pulses and rushes around you as you dash, and although you’ll probably be too busy to notice it, it’s worth sitting back once a level’s finished and just taking in the atmosphere. Visuals are accompanied by a techno soundtrack that feels tonally appropriate and galvanises the player, giving the game that elusive “just one more try” feeling.
When all is said and done, that’s possibly the best thing one can say about Glitch Dash. That “just one more try” sense is actually surprisingly elusive; there aren’t many games which simply catapult the player back into the action with minimal fuss and allow them to keep the gameplay up. Glitch Dash, though, is one such game. Give it a try and tell us you’re not addicted.