148Apps Network Post
Developer: Big Pixel Studios
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4, iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Playtime: Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Off The Leash is an endless runner starring a surprisingly underrepresented category of the endless runner protagonist: dogs. In the world of Off The Leash, a tyrannical new regime has made dogs illegal, even though they’re now wearing hats. So, the dogs run wild – literally – in order to escape the fascist anti-dog police for as long as they can. The player must tilt to dodge obstacles, pick up coins and food, and round up other dogs to help collect more items, all while trying to reach the goal before the clock runs out. The game follows the em>Jetpack Joyride model, where coins that get collected can be spent on cosmetic items for the dogs, upgrades, and for new dog players.

Off The Leash continues Big Pixel Games’ traditional art style of thick black outlines around all the characters – it looks like their trademark style, and it especially stands out on the Retina Display, looking almost like paper cutouts on the screen. This is even on the slightly inferior iPod touch 4th generation Retina Display, it makes great use of that high DPI. The game revels in the ludicrousness that is runaway illegal dogs, featuring powerups like double dogs, which is as awesome as it is illiterative, and the Big Dog that swipes away the police and lets the player keep on playing. The objectives are a natural fit to the gameplay, rewarding players for performing a certain number of in-game actions or reaching certain thresholds that occur through natural play.

Unfortunately, Off The Leash has some issues. In particular, it semes like it’s possible for sessions to end with no fault of the player. The time limit is extremely oppressive, as it ticks down to zero even in the first couple of segments. It feels like I’m on pins and needles throughout the entire game hoping I don’t hit anything. Plus, the “slow down to line up the dogs” mechanic is pretty much worthless because ever slowing down is a key to failure. I know other endless games are about “one failure and it’s game over” but this game seems to lie about the degree of precision needed. The iPod touch 4th generation suffers a lot of crashes with the game, particularly when a lot of apps are installed on the device (app icons need to be cached in RAM, and this causes crashes in some games). The game runs perfectly fine on the iPad 2 I tested it out on; with a few tweaks to tilt sensitivity, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason why this couldn’t be universal.

Off The Leash could have been much better. There are just so many questionable design decisions that let down the game’s concept.

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