Mexican inspired battle racer Must Dash Amigos from miniBeast game studios joins the welcome resurgence of local couch co-op hitting our screens this year. A frantic and vibrant tour of a selection south american locales mixed with some tricky courses, offers some great gameplay but it poses the question “Is the party still fun when nobody comes?”
Inspired by the Micro Machines formula, Must Dash Amigos is best played when there are a bunch of you with your own controllers huddled around a TV, maybe with a Pizza and some drinks. The racing is hectic with a handful of Mexican archetypes available for players to choose from as you try to outrun your fellow players around a multitude of courses littered with weapons, power ups and obstacles.
The game looks great with a goofy caricature style to the models and courses, all extremely clean with no jaggies, slowdown or tears in sight. That helps, as the game is pretty quick and you don’t need the distractions. The areas on offer are varied at both the track level within each locale and radically different between the locales themselves ranging from a desert town to a jungle and to a city scene. Obstacles are also part of the course area so expect to find snakes in the jungle whilst the city has traffic and motor vehicles to contend with.
Other than cosmetic features there’s no difference between the characters on offer allowing balance from the start, so it all comes down to clever use of weaponry and avoiding some of the obstacles in order to help you score points within each round. As racers fall behind the front runners they can be eliminated by having the screen overtake them, at this point the remaining players continue until one is victorious.
Power ups come in the form of golden pinata scattered at strategic points during each course and usually found on the racing line. Once picked up you have the option of holding, deploying or dropping the bestowed gift — this can sometimes make or break your run. Speed boost or invincibility items can be strategically deployed to gain an advantage, although picking up a bomb is a different story. Using it makes it explode slowing down your racer and any racers in the blast so it’s better to just discard it if you are in the lead.
Hilarity can and often ensues fairly quickly since the frantic nature of picking up and firing off weapons to get an advantage very quickly backfires as you deploy a bomb accidentally and everyone goes flying. The art style fits this type of slapstick gameplay event and the added inclusion of random stampedes or obstacles means there’s never a dull race.
Single race mode is on offer for short burst, pick up and play games or for involved sessions there’s a tournament mode offering a knockout style set of races mixed with a battle mode. Championship offers a more classic multi race scenario to win the gold. There’s a mode where you just get to use the battle mode, offering enclosed arenas with scattered weapons in a last man standing scenario for 2-4 players.
For those wanting to practice, single player modes consist of a selection of challenges across each set of tracks as well as a time trial mode to help you hone your skills. Challenges and time trial can be quite difficult as much of it relies on the random nature of your pickups. The only real benefit here is the speed boost, the standard avatar speed isn’t enough to get gold on the time trials, avoid the stampede or catch the magic pinata in challenge so sometimes it’s just a potluck, which can be fairly frustrating.
That’s where single player activities stop though, there’s no single player story, tournament or championship that is supplemented with CPU AI players. So whilst you can practice until the sun comes up again, you can’t practice against other players who are more likely to ruin your race with a well placed flaming burrito. There’s no online multiplayer either so if you can’t find a friend you are pretty limited.
Completing a Time Trial, Challenge or participating in multiplayer allows you to earn some in game currency, delightfully named Mustachios. These can be used to purchase new outfits for the characters with three outfits per character at 800 Mustachios each. Challenges completed can earn around 150 Mustachios on average so it wouldn’t take too long to collect them all but you should probably expect more to drop in patches or updates.
Well engineered, extremely fun and balanced with two, three or four players, Must Dash Amigos falls short of greatness by potentially forgetting that the world has moved on in the past 15 years. Couch co-op is great but you need a couch and friends to play it with in the first place and the lack of a virtual couch (online) or a single player mode would likely mean this ends up getting sidelined for more inclusive games, which is a crying shame. That said, when you do have access to two to three other players it is one of the best examples of the genre and a barrel of laughs that can explode at any time.
Must Dash Amigos is out now on PC via Steam and Xbox One.