Soap Opera Dash is an entertaining new instalment in the Dash franchise
I have to confess that soap operas are not exactly my cup of tea. However I admit that it is quite fascinating to imagine what must be going on behind the scenes. And this is exactly the kind of experience Soap Opera Dash, the newest release by Playfirst, tries to provide. While the game’s theme is charming and a nice variation for the dash franchise, there are some shortcomings that prevent it from being a top-notch experience.
Soap Opera Dash features 50 levels in which the player follows Rosie, another character from DinerTown who has been fleshed out into the star of her own game. Rosie is writing scripts, and when she loses her job she quickly decides to create her own soap opera. As actors, she hires well-known DinerTown characters such as Flo from Diner Dash and Quinn from Wedding Dash, as well as her high school crush Simon. The storyline of the game is very complicated and would make for a good script on its own.
The game can be described as an interesting mixture of the traditional dash formula and the Sally’s-series. In each level the player has to create a varying number of scenes. Characters, color-matching and chaining bonuses are taken over from former dash titles, while mini-games at certain stations and dragging characters from one station to another is reminiscent of Sally’s Spa and the like. For each successful action you earn points that you need to fulfill the (expert) goal for each level.
The tasks Rosie has to perform are quite diverse, and Soap Opera Dash does an excellent job in creating a convincing atmosphere of a set from a TV show. There are hair styling stations, make-up stations and fitting rooms, where Rosie prepares actors accordingly for the scene. A bar at the top of the screen indicates which actors are up next – some may need onions to improve their acting, others might be hungry and demand a burger, and Rosie is the person to answer all those demands in time. On top of that some actors are surrounded by stars which means that Rosie has to perform a very easy mini-game at their current station, for example applying lipstick of a specific color or choosing the appropriate outfit.
This already engaging routine is spiced up by some special features, such as the impatient movie critic who turns up unexpectedly and requires burgers pretty quickly, or adamant fans who want to get an autograph from their favorite actor. Additionally the set has to be cleaned after each scene, props have to be implemented beforehand, and sometimes stations get broken and have to be repaired by Hal, who is also doing the filming. As you can see there is a lot to do, and the pace is pretty quick from the get-go.
Not exactly new, but still fun, is the upgrade system. Stations can be improved, Rosie’s speed can be increased, and you are able to make Bernie the bookworm quicker with writing scripts to name a few. The upgrades do not vary at all from location to location, but they are not as important as in other dash titles anyway. Here it is even more about chaining and color-matching. Handing out scripts or serving at the same stations without interruptions gives huge bonus points, and seating an actor in a station matching his clothes’ color yields the same result.
Even more fun is to choose characters such as Flo, Karma, or Quinn for certain roles in each season of the soap, for example the lovers, the best friend or the sidekick. This feature is particularly enjoyable for old fans of this brand, but also fits the theme of Soap Opera Dash in general. On top of that you also have to prepare the last scene for each season’s finale, which lets you choose two actors and one action between them. For example you could choose one of the lovers and the jealous ex to fight each other, but that is only one of many possible choices. Admittedly, those two features are a bit underdeveloped and could have made the game much better if more detailed and with clear consequences for the actual gameplay.
The collector’s edition of Soap Opera Dash features 10 bonus levels and some decorative extras that can be purchased at the so-called Treasure Trove. The currency for these purchases are the jury votes that you can gain for fulfilling the additional goals during the regular levels. Those goals include delivering a certain number of ice tea, to get a long chain, not to have any angry actors and others. The bonus levels differ from the regular ones, but do not take that much time and are not as entertaining as the main gameplay, so you should think twice about whether those extras are really worth the additional cost.
Unfortunately Soap Opera Dash has two serious problems. Firstly, the playtime is very short – you will breeze through the levels without a problem. Secondly, and this negative aspect is directly connected to the first one, the game is too easy. In fact I have a hard time to think about any previous dash game that is as easy. Without any strategy I completed all levels with expert scores at first try, with only two or three exceptions, and even those did not turn out to be overly complicated later on.
Nevertheless, the storyline, the features and the atmosphere fit the theme just perfectly, and the game is without a doubt much more than just the regular rehash of the proven dash formula. Even people who normally dislike time management games should give it a try, because even though you’ll get used to the quick pace and the game becomes pretty easy, it always remains entertaining.