Dash de Lei-Lei: Dashstalkers

Dash de Lei-Lei is an adorable score attack game by doujin circle EasyGameStation, perhaps most famous on the English speaking side of the internet for Recettear. The main aim here is to rack up as many points as possible while sprinting across arcade mode’s five stages (each split into three levels, with a short bonus run at the end), helping Lei-Lei to rescue her beloved sister Lin-Lin along the way.

Fifteen levels may sound like a lot to go through in one sitting (the good news is you can continue as many times as you like, the game taking you back to the beginning of the current stage), but as each one is designed to be cleared in under a minute Dash de Lei-Lei actually zooms on by in a pleasantly colourful blur… so long as you can avoid the sneaky obstacles standing between Lei-Lei and the end of the level.

These time-sapping troubles are a curious mix of especially daft takes on Darkstalkers characters (watch out for the sleeping Felicias!) and oddly, a few famous cameos from Namco’s classic shmup, Xevious. The most obvious way to safely pass by them is to move to the side: the game uses five clear “lanes” for object placement, but you have no such restrictions and in time you’ll learn to weave just between alternating obstructions while maintaining your current speed.

There’s nothing to stop you from jumping over them either, although it’s important to keep the height of whatever’s ahead in mind as certain objects, such as Anakaris’ occasionally screen-high arms, require either careful timing, a little luck, or successfully springing off a nearby jump pad to clear. And then of course you have to worry about where you land afterwards, too.

Or you could just blow them away instead with whichever limited-use weapon you picked from a selection of six at the start of each stage (stage, not level) instead. It’s here we start to see just how carefully crafted Dash de Lei-Lei is, as each weapon serves a different purpose and is geared towards a particular playstyle. The sword, for example, mows down just about everything directly ahead (although it will bounce off metallic objects), allowing you to keep on running in an arrow-straight line and picking up extra points as you go, whereas the flying boots let you run for a short while in the air, completely bypassing most of the problems on the ground below, and saving you from having to consider what they’re made of at all.

To add even more depth every item has a noticeable impact on one of Lei-Lei’s stats. The hammer item type sets up a passive whirling shield around Lei-Lei, but the weight of it reduces her top speed more than any other piece of equipment. The spike ball may not be the ideal offensive item, but it improves her acceleration and jumping capabilities. There’s always more than one thing to keep in mind, and no definitive “best” choice to mindlessly stick with under any and all circumstances—especially as almost every weapon will instantly destroy anything it comes into contact with. Great when you need to get rid of tall speed-stealing grass or a wave of enemies, but less so when you really needed to use that incoming jump pad.

As awful as it is to wipe out something that could’ve helped you out, Dash de Lei-Lei isn’t trying to trick you into making your gaming life harder than it has to be.

Every level will contain a healthy number of Khaibits—Anakaris’ little helper—and stomping on them briefly pauses the level’s timer. You can also run straight into them too, kicking them down the track (you’ll even receive a points bonus for doing so) if you either don’t want to jump on them right now or you try to make the hop but just slightly miss, giving you a second chance to save a little time without the game actually going easy on you.

I should probably mention here that Lei-Lei doesn’t run at a single fixed speed: you can hold right to make her run as fast as possible or pull left to slow down, even right to a stop if you wish. Most of the time you will want to push her to her limits, but if you do need to adjust just a touch then you have the ability to do so.

And if you forget you can ease off or don’t quite adjust in time, and end up sending poor Lei-Lei crashing head-first into something incredibly ouchy? Well, that’s not ideal, but the game even gives you a subtle little helping hand here too. You never have to run through a stage perfectly to win. You’ll never find yourself sailing past a speed boost and thinking “Well, I guess I’m restarting this one”, because every level can be cleared on immediate reactions alone, and the track length/design/time limit assumes you’ll make a few errors along the way. If you want to chase high hi-scores you’ll of course need to do better, but the game isn’t interested in punishing every last trip.

It’s not even a given that Lei-Lei will definitely fall flat on her face in the first place; she might trip or stumble instead if you’re lucky, pulling herself back and carrying on with only a much shorter amount of precious time lost.

The amount of time lost is only one of the factors that count towards your final end-of-level score: collecting gems is where the real points-gaining technique lies. The most obvious thing to do is to run fast and collect all of the gold gems you can see, running straight into treasure chests to make them spill their shinies across the ground.

But if you want to do really well you’ll jump over treasure chests instead. This causes them to burst open (even though you’ve not actually touched them), spilling special blue gems everywhere. These will auto-attract to you like delicious tokens in your favourite bullet-hell style shmup, and also kick off a handy gem points multiplier: keep collecting gems after popping a chest in this way and you’ll greatly increase the points value of every gem you collect of either colour for as long as you can keep the chain going.

It’s just another clever twist in a game packed with thoughtful little touches. Every enemy silhouette is unlike every other, making it easy to distinguish them at high speed. One recurring enemy type has around five different possible movement patterns, and you can tell at a glance which one’s coming up because they’re all clearly colour coded.

And once you’ve experienced every obstacle type Dash de Lei-Lei throws in a few levels centred around a particular game mechanic to keep things interesting: the one that’s mostly speed boosts. The one that hides mines in tall grass. The one that’s all about jumping. The game may be a short and sweet experience, but it’s also one that’s been engaged with wholeheartedly and explored to its fullest.

It even has one last surprise waiting up Lei-Lei voluminous sleeves, just for good measure. Clearing the game adds a single-use-per-level only rocket boost item to the weapons list: a little treat for your efforts—perhaps if not in arcade mode, then maybe in the alternative nonstop three minute mode instead?

Dash de Lei-Lei’s brevity works entirely in its favour, EasyGameStation sensibly choosing to do one simple idea well rather than spread the game out for content’s sake. The game even works flawlessly on modern PCs too (Windows 10 tested and confirmed)—in fact it’ll work on pretty much any PC at all really, as the game’s system requirements are so mild they can be accurately summarised as “Is your Windows PC less than twenty years? Does it still turn on? Then you’ll be OK.”.


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