[Review] The Copper Canyon Dixie Dash – Nintendo Switch

Written by Shehan Amarasekera
  • Developer: Alternative Software
  • Publisher: Black Dragon Studios  
  • Release Date: 23/04/2020
  • Price: £5.99 / $7.49
  • Review code provided by Black Dragon Studios

Introducing The Copper Canyon Dixie Dash Switch Review

A very specific taste of mine are shooters which prioritize movement and weapon variety over precision or cover. So when I first got my hands on The Copper Canyon Dixie Dash, it was almost love at first sight. I say almost because, while this game does indeed fit into that very specific taste of mine, the most important factor is how it is executed. So, does Dixie Dash pull it off?

A New Beginning

Upon starting the first level, you are shown the most amount of story this game will ever give you. The premise is extraordinarily simple: Copper Canyon has been overrun by robots, so the titular Dixie decides to take matters into her own hands. It’s immediately clear that the story is only here to provide just the minimal amount of context needed before you can go wild with the gameplay, and that’s perfectly okay.


I played the game exclusively in handheld mode, so upon loading in, I was greeted to a very blurry presentation. What is interesting to note, however, is that this is a port of a VR game (something which becomes evident with one of your core moves, the dash). As such, while the presentation is somewhat lackluster, a lot of Unreal Engine games on the Switch exhibit the same issues. And considering the game manages to maintain its framerate pretty well, the presentation isn’t enough of an issue to change my opinion of the game.

BANG, BANG, BANG!

The game’s tutorial is about as minimalist as the story. You see a couple of boxes at the top left explaining how your weapons work… and off you go! Unless I somehow missed it, the dash mechanic is not even explained, fortunately the controls are easy enough to get a grip of if you’ve ever played a shooter before. You have 3 weapons selectable with the d-pad or face buttons, your revolvers have infinite ammo, while your shotguns and sniper rifles both have finite ammo you can replenish by picking up (or shooting, for some reason) ammo packs in the map. The same applies to health bottles.

Your other move, beyond the obvious jumping, sprinting, and crouching (which is completely useless, by the way), is your dash. When the bars at the bottom have filled up, you can press the left bumper to dash into any and all enemies, as long as they are within range. You are completely invulnerable, and you regain health upon doing it, so there’s no real reason to not use it when it’s ready.

It’s Not All Sunshine and Bullets

When it all clicks, it’s a glorious barrage of bullets and explosions. Being a wave-based arcade shooter, it’s truly satisfying seeing you rack up the points as you clear wave after wave by dashing all across the map. Unfortunately, the game does not feel like this most of the time. Right from the get go, it feels super sluggish. The latency is pretty awful – it feels like your character turns half a second after you start pushing the analogue stick.

This makes aiming down sight, particularly with the sniper rifle, feel terrible and as a result, useless. It’s so hard to be precise in this game. And even if you are, it actually feels somewhat punishing – because landing a headshot in this game more often than not leads to the robot’s body lasting for an extra few seconds. When in this state, they spray their gun wildly all over the area, making headshots feel more like a hassle rather than a reward. Sure, you can blow off their limbs, but this again comes back to the aiming feeling so sluggish that being precise is just not fun.

What? Over Already?

It’s hard to play this and not feel like it was held back by its budget. Beyond the blatantly obvious stock sound effects, the game is incredibly short. There are just three levels, and I must have blasted through it all in about an hour. The game incentivizes replays through its scoring system and harder difficulties, but that’s not enough, especially when there are only 3 enemy types and one boss used throughout the entire game.

This boss, might I add, isn’t even particularly good. When you shoot off a part of it, it goes invulnerable for about 30 seconds while you dodge its attacks simply by leisurely walking away. The one stomp attack that does get added later can be dodged by just standing on some nearby boxes. I thought it might be a good scenario to try out the different weapons, but when your revolvers are more than good enough, and reloading them is quicker than switching to some other weapon, you end up just sticking with what works.

Untapped Potential

There’s a good foundation here, there’s just too much that doesn’t work. Even the whole selling point of the game, the dash, is so blatantly overpowered. When activating it, you don’t need to aim at all, and you clip through objects (to the point where I got stuck on multiple occasions when using it and had to just sit there and shoot so I could recharge the dash to get out). It feels less like an augmentation of gameplay and more like a “get out of jail free” card.

If it sounds like I’m being harsh, it’s because I know a good product can come from this. The lack of hit scan and the many, many health pickups make the game way too easy for sure, but they also allow you to play super recklessly. In those moments where you forget how small the maps are, how sluggish the aiming is, and how limited the enemy variety is, you feel fantastic. It comes close to scratching that blood-pumping over-powered adrenaline-fueled ride that I crave from shooters, but it ultimately holds itself back too much.

Conclusion

You get what you pay for with The Copper Canyon Dixie Dash. A short but somewhat fun arcade shooter focused on movement and chaos. Unfortunately, its short and unpolished nature permeates throughout the experience, making this feel more like a neat tech demo for a potential sequel, and less like an addictive shooter that I’d want to keep replaying.

PROS

  • When everything falls into place, it’s a lot of fun
  • The scoring system adds replayability

CONS

  • Unpolished in both presentation and gameplay
  • Incredibly short and lacking variety
  • Too easy and repetitive

Verdict
While this game offers promise, there are far too many faults to look past for me to be able to recommend it.

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