Criminals just don’t rob banks like they used to. Nowadays, it’s all about gritty drama and scare tactics; back then, robbers could simply slap on an eye mask, a striped shirt, and a burlap bag for hoisting cash before going to town on the local vault. At least, that’s the kind of light-hearted, imaginary thievery that Dollar Dash evokes. This downloadable multiplayer melee from Kalypso and Candygun Games is an unexpected surprise, offering up a rowdy cash-grabbing romp that’s a hoot with four players.
Like the early PSN title Calling All Cars, Dollar Dash harkens back to cartoony, 1920s-style heists where the criminals were little more than thugs and hoodlums. As one such kooky criminal, you’ll take part in illegal paydays in 30 maps, each with their own goofy gimmick to change up the pace. At its most basic, gameplay involves running to and from your getaway truck, hauling sackfulls of moolah that’ll slow your speed depending on how much cash you’re carrying. But you won’t be collecting your moolah free from harm: There are three other robbers who have their heart set on taking home the most dough.
There’s no plot to speak of--just pure PvP action, with human or AI opponents. Playing from a top-down perspective, you’ll have to maneuver your outlaw around a roughly screen-sized map, picking up power-ups as frequently as cash and coins. The twist is that any of the other crooks can sabotage you on your way back to the truck, smacking you upside the head to make you drop your money or knock you clean off the map. All 30 stages have a unique mechanic, like spike pits, moving conveyor belts, or laser-triggered security systems, so it’ll be awhile before you know exactly what’s coming before each match.
Things get even more hectic with the wide variety of power-ups strewn about each level, which serve as offensive projectiles (snowballs, fireworks, and plungers), devious traps (oil slicks and bombs), or handy utility powers (super speed or a shield made of Jell-O). You can also easily disable any items you don’t enjoy from spawning on the map. The 20+ weapons and power-ups that aid you in your heist, combined with the modestly close-quarters combat, mean that the screen is often a jumble of colorful cartoon crime.
The playful mood is set straight from the get-go with some catchy menu music: Keith Mansfield’s "Morning Broadway" (which was also sampled in a certain Danger Doom song). It’s here that you can also customize your criminal’s look, with some equally quirky gear like Jason-style hockey masks, bright blue mohawks, or other such accessories. There are also equippable upgrades that do more than change your aesthetic: Perks range from ability boosts to new taunts and victory dances, for when your victorious villain is celebrating on top of a Scrooge McDuck-worthy pile of money.
Besides the eponymous Dollar Dash mode, there’s also Hit & Run (where cash is awarded for knocking out other players) and Save the Safe (our personal favorite, where players have to lug a single safe on their backs while fending off their greedy opponents). The game can be played online, but it’s at its best when you’re playing with three other would-be felons in person, hollering at your misfortune or the haul of money you had stolen at the last second. A few of the power-ups seem a little too strong--the rolling boulder could devastate all three enemies, and a force-pushing boombox was extremely annoying in the hands of another player--but all in all, Dollar Dash is thus far good fun. At $10, this frantic free-for-all could very well be a steal. Look for it when it hits PC, PSN, and XBLA this October.