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iPhone Game Review: Dalton - THE AWESOME!
      03/06/11 11:31 AM

iPhone Game Review: Dalton - THE AWESOME!
Reviewed by Tim Harvey

It would be easy to see so many of the "doodle" games as the poorly-drawn blackheads on the pimply butt of the iTunes App Store, their simplistic figures and graph paper backgrounds a mark of developers motivated by a fly-by-night mentality taking advantage of a fad created by perennial best-seller Doodle Jump to excuse themselves from hiring an artist to draw their game assets, instead opting for the quick and easy solution of sketching a few stick figures and calling it a day.?Indeed, if you rarely gave doodle-style games a second look because you were often expecting them to be poorly conceived and woefully executed, you'd be playing the odds well, since the list of doodle games that fit that bill is a long one.?Sometimes, however, one will come along that actually seems to embrace the doodle aesthetic as a stylistic choice rather than a cop out and provides fine-tuned and compelling gameplay to boot.?Dalton ? The Awesome by Colorbox is just such a title and manages to work as a sum greater than its parts due to its slick repackaging of well-worn gameplay tropes and attractive background art.
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Gameplay
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While Dalton - The Awesome cribs the doodle art style, the gameplay is another in the recently crowded line of endless running games which, if you're not familiar with them, are essentially exactly what they sound like?a cross between the classic side-scrolling platformer and a play-until-you-die high score-centric arcade experience.? Like the bulk of doodle-themed games, many of the recent endless runners have felt half-baked and unsatisfying but Dalton, (the game, not the character), uses inspiration well thanks to easy to pick-up, one-button controls and a myriad of fun to use power-ups.? Like some similar titles such as Monster Dash, these power-ups break up the monotony of a ceaseless course from left to right and mastering them is the key, along with quick reflexes and a bit of luck, to your prolonged survival.

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These power-ups include a skateboard, dual-wielded pistols, a jetpack, a motorcycle, boxing gloves, an AK-47, and even a tank.? There is also a power-up which transforms Dalton into a giant, allowing him to shake the ground when he lands a jump, which kills any onscreen zombies.? Oh, did I forget to mention that there are zombies in the game as well?? It shouldn't come as any surprise, really, since "zombies" is probably the most pervasive element in iOS gaming, after all.? If you happen to be tired of seeing zombies in your games then you may be relieved a bit to know that here, at least, they are not the main focus and basically function simply as obstacles.
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Each power-up can be unlocked by eclipsing specific set distances in any single run or purchased using "zombie souls," which are collected by killing zombies via power-ups or, somewhat less frequently, by a head stomp which I've found in my case is usually more luck-based than skill-based, due to the game speed and the zombies' relatively small hit box.? Aside from contending with rooftops and zombies, you'll need to avoid spike traps and tar pits as well, ensuring you'll always be on your toes.
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Within all these familiar ingredients, Dalton - The Awesome does manage to distinguish itself among the crowd of similar titles by offering a well-curved difficulty that will see most players lasting between 30 seconds and one minute to complete a single run.? It's also worth noting that the game somewhat departs from the usual endless runner formula in that the game speed remains constant, which is a boon for those who have trouble playing similar games that instead opt to increase their pace to a blinding speed, causing many a tired eye.
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Graphics
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Dalton himself appears to be either an early 80s rapper or a suburban teenager who likes hip-hop clothes, but it's hard to distinguish which due to the inexact nature of stick-figure art. Likewise, the zombies are only noticeably zombie-like in their behavior, as they run willy-nilly over the ledges of buildings or stand aimlessly around. They do sport red eyes and mouths, but it would have been nice to see more grotesqueness in their designs, perhaps with popped-out eyes or missing limbs, but the lack of distinguishing character art is more than made up for in the excellently stylized settings which render locations such as Egypt, Italy, New York City, Paris, and China in colorful and cartoonish detail and add some nice, if unrealistic, touches such as a pair of sunglasses to the Statue of Liberty and a smiley face on the Sphinx. The platform on which Dalton runs also changes based on his location.

The location-based artwork is the real visual strength of the game, and it is well-rendered in retina-display supported definition.
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Sound
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Although sound effects are somewhat sparse, utilizing a utilitarian swooshing sound for jumps, a grunt for when Dalton is killed, and a thump for his landing after a jump, the music is nicely done. Each setting has a different musical theme, all of which are enjoyable in short measures. Unfortunately, the game does not support iPod music playback. However, this is something the developers could easily fix in a later update.
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Conclusion
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Overall, Dalton ? The Awesome is a fun and worthwhile addition to the endless running genre, kept fresh by well-paced gameplay, unlockable power-ups and a variety of settings and music. It has all the bells and whistles an arcade gamer looks for, such as achievements and high scores through Game Center and OpenFeint, and it's a universal app. A good bet at 99 cents for high score and achievement seekers, or those looking for a satisfying pick-up-and-play experience.
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Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics: - 3.5 - Lively background settings save Dalton ? The Awesome from being just another doodle-art game, although the character design is a bit lacking.
Sound: - 3 - Nice music carries this category, while the sound effects do just enough not to be a detraction.
Controls: - 4 - Familiar and easy to use single-button controls do everything that's needed well.
Gameplay: - 4 - Simple, well-balanced gameplay that just feels good and compels you to come back to the title again is Dalton ? The Awesome's greatest strength.
Overall: - 3.5 - Although lacking somewhat in originality, Dalton ? The Awesome is not just an also-ran, but one of the better endless runners out there.
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Playing Hints and Tips:
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-Learn to anticipate some of the roof gaps. There is a finite number of combinations which will generate in the level.
-Don't take long jumps to avoid zombies or other obstacles as they may lead you to death by pit fall.
-Don't forget to upgrade your power-ups?higher upgrade levels will allow you to use power-ups for longer.
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If you like this title, you may also enjoy:

Canabalt: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/canabalt/id333180061?mt=8
Monster Dash: http://www.mobiletechreview.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Number=38386
Robot Unicorn Attack: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/robot-unicorn-attack/id374791544?mt=8
Grim Joggers: http://www.mobiletechreview.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Number=40021

App Facts:
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Developer: Colorbox
Release Date: Updated Mar. 4, 2011
Price: $0.99
Buy App: Dalton ? The AWESOME! ?
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Check out our full list of iPhone/iPod touch game reviews:
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Check out our other iPad game reviews:
http://www.mobiletechreview.com/iPad-game-reviews.htm
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