REVIEW: Border Dash

Is it racist? When it comes to XBLIGs, sadly, it’s a question I have to ask myself frequently enough. Reasons aplenty. Could be the lack of an authoritative body, or maybe the community itself. Most times, I write it off to cultural differences, or vocabulary issues where English is not a developer’s first language. Less forgivable are the native speakers that do drag out archaic stereotypes for laughs (that often aren’t funny, just awkward), but even then I would resist from calling it outright racism. That is, until I played Border Dash1($1.00).

Border Dash - Screen

I’m hardly a bleeding-heart liberal, or someone that’s going to instigate a Twitter campaign to decry something minor, but with Border Dash, really, the game does it to itself. Taking control of the unfortunate Chuy, Border Dash is an ‘endless runner’ (of sorts) that has you avoiding Immigration agents and the DEA on the way to crossing the border back into the United States. Each stage even ends with you wading through a river and coming out on the other side. The idea isn’t overtly bad or objectionable just yet, but I’m not done.

To fight off his pursuers, Chuy gathers items via bricks (think Mario, like the developer’s last game, complete with reused assets) that he can toss to slow them down / defeat. These items include flip flops, roasted corn, tequila bombs, and money (for bribes). Oh, and by picking up tacos, Chuy can call on the special powers of a witch or a chupacabra. Basically, this amounts to every stereotype imaginable being put into play. The topper? If you lose all your health and are caught, you can buy your way out with a fake green card. So you see, all kinds of subtlety here, classy up and down the board.

Border Dash - Screen2

The sloppy, simplistic gameplay that supports it isn’t any better. You can only attack enemies behind you, leaving yourself open to agents that come from the front, with no real way to avoid them (bizarrely, your jumps will land you directly on top of them, taking damage). The game also suffers from crippling slowdown from the second level (or ‘attempt’, as the game calls it) on, dropping the framerate down to a ridiculous crawl at some points.

So, Border Dash. Is it racist? Even by stretching the boundaries of good taste, and having a selective memory about the rest… probably. That may or may not bother you, but that’s a judgement call you’ll have to make for yourself. The good news— or easier news— in all of this, is that the game is terrible all on its own. No choosing sides in politics, no collective moral voting or decency mobs required, as I can’t picture anyone wanting to give this game more than a minute of their time.

  1. Not as bad as Custer humping Indians, maybe, but certainly not in the realm of good taste. 

12 thoughts on “REVIEW: Border Dash”

  1. First 😎

    Am I the only one who read the title as Boulder Dash? And dunno if I would go so far and call it racist, but it seems to be full of stereotypical clichés.

    1. You’re not the only one; I kept writing it out as Boulder Dash, even had to go back and change one post-publication. 🙂 That’d be a good one for you to cover / play on the C64. Ideas…

      As for the trickier notion of if it’s racist or not, I’d tend to measure it by the amount of stereotypes involved. That, and there’s no point in the entire game (at least that I saw) where it’s stated this is parody or anything of the like. I kinda feel like comedians are really the only type of person that can get away with something like this. Anybody / anything else, and you’re walking a very precarious path.

    2. Tim what I find interesting is what I’ll call a double standard. I mean when a game is overly stereotypical towards women there doesn’t seem to be as much backlash in your reviews as appose to this. I personally think there is way to much political correctness in the world. I guess I could see how maybe this might be offensive to someone but wasn’t it written by someone of Hispanic descent?

      Actually the humor drew me in to buy this game without even trying it out and I found the controls very tight and actually enjoyed the game very much.

      Again…not trying to argue here or create issues and I think you are cool with everyone having their opinion but I didn’t see any issues with this whatsoever.

    3. Oh, I’ll call that out too. That’s why I’ve got the ‘business of boobs’ tag, and blast a developer for putting out ‘skin’ games and nothing else of substance. Occasionally, they build a semi-coherent game around it, which I’ll give a pass, yes, but the vast majority… I flag them as such. I can see how that could be considered a double standard in regards to my reviewing of them, and the popularity of those articles on the site, but ‘objectification of women’ and ‘almost-racism’ are two very different things, when you think about it. There’s arguments to be made, but the latter is certainly worse.

      And I’m with you in saying there’s too much ‘political correctness’ in the world these days. That’s why I made that crack about ‘twitter campaigns’, as it seems like every other day you’re seeing or reading about something being blasted for being racist / sexist / fat-shaming / what have you, with random tweets from random people. The world is hypersensitive to everything these days, that’s why I think, if XBLIG was more popular, somebody wouId’ve latched onto this game and started up a campaign against it. Of course, it all comes down to the individual, and what your level of comfort / tolerance is. I don’t know the developer’s nationality, or their mindset when it came to Border Dash, but I personally think it goes to far. Even without the mention of ‘hey, I’m just having fun here’, or it being a parody (which isn’t stated), you can go overboard on the stereotypical stuff and cross a line. I feel it does. And don’t forget, regardless of a person’s nationality, that person can still be racist toward members of that race. It’s not something that’s generally talked about, but it does exist.

      All that said, yes, absolutely we’re all entitled to opinions, and I certainly respect yours. You guys are invested in XBLIG and the games as much as I am, so by all means, state your stance on something when you see it.

      On a lighter note, though, I have to disagree with your point that the gameplay is solid. Did we even play the same game?! You can’t even jump over oncoming agents and avoid damage! The only chance you have is to (hopefully) be near a brick, so you can gain a height advantage, but even then, the agent turns around as soon as you pass them, which means you’ll likely land on top of them anyway. And the slowdown? The first ‘stage’ is always fine, but every one after, it gets worse. Especially towards the end of each run. It’s like watching a stop-motion animation at some points. 😀 ❗ ❓

    4. You have to far enough forward to be able to run backwards some if needed and then get up on the “hills” to jump over them. I think that is they way I did it. Been some time since I played it. Like I said it was an instant buy when it came out and I played quite a bit of it then but haven’t touched it since. I still own way to many games.

    5. Bah, I still say that’s terrible implementation. It makes players either ‘hope’ for a favorable position when the enemies come, or have to maneuver using the bricks / ‘hills’. Not good. On the flip side, though, you’re given so many ‘items’ to attack with that you’d probably never take damage otherwise, if not for the cheap hits. Bizarre.

    6. @Tim: Boulder Dash is on my short list for quite some time now. But I’m really bad at it and never made it far. And your second reply must be one of the longest replies ever on here. It’s like… really long.

      @DreamPoet: Too many games, you say? Let me guess, half of them you never finished. 😀 But an interesting thing I’ve noticed over the years it that, when you get one new game, you normally enjoy it. But should you buy, say, two new games, you play the first one for a bit, then leave it and play through the second one. About half a year later you discover that game case, completely covered in dust and remember ‘Hey, isn’t that the game I bought half a year ago and never really played? Cool’.

    7. @Soosh: Oh, I’ve made ’em even longer. 😎 Back in the day, I’d go on forever. That was part of the reason I changed the comments section to only allow replies to the original person; we were winding up with replies that were like three words across, thanks to the layering.

      @Soosh & Dream Poet: I consider my collection of games to be a great buffet; you come to it, sample a piece here and there, stick with what you like. Occasionally you branch off, eat something you haven’t had in a long time, and pay for it later with indigestion. I think. Or maybe that’s a terrible comparison.

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