Review: Dab on ’em Haterz

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Review copy provided by developer via Curator Connect

Memes are not a new concept in human culture, but the internet has turned them into a veritable force of nature. Where once an activity or a catchphrase took time to circulate through social groups and regions, now fidget spinners and dabbing can spread in moments across the globe. This also means that even the most banal, insignificant notions can become memes, and that’s essentially what Dab on ’em Haterz is built around. It’s a simulated war between you and online commenters to see who can dismiss the other harder, based solely on pithy replies. As a casual time-waster it’s certainly topical, but some unfortunate design decisions keep it from holding your attention for long.

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In your infinite Millennial wisdom you have decided to become a YouTube superstar. Every week you choose three topics from a list of five to upload videos on, sundry disciplines ranging from relationships and social networks to vaping and diss tracks. Once your videos are out in the wild the YouTube commenters will take the bait, and it’s up to you to respond. From a vast and swiftly-scrolling list you must pick comments to either like or dab, and the “correct” response will earn you some cash somehow. Liking or dabbing the wrong comments will lose you money, though, and dabbing too many will put you in a button-mashing dab war that can lose you a big chunk of change. Assuming you make enough scratch to pay for food and rent and whatever dumb thing happens during the week, you survive to upload again the following week.

There’s not much more going on here than clicking comments but there are hints of strategy and depth. You can like as many good comments as you want without repercussion but dabbing too many bad ones hits you with a tough button-mashing sequence. You’ll want to avoid this at all costs, so seeking out good comments to like is a safer strategy. Some comments are shown in blue, and responding to those gets you a nice cash bonus if you like or dab appropriately. Beyond that, you really need to be reading and understanding comments to respond because some nice ones start with a friendly insult, and some bad ones are that annoying internet sarcastic where you can’t really tell how sincere it is.

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All of this is spoiled, however, by how the game is balanced. Time is your greatest enemy here, because you are on an absurdly short timer for everything. You have only three seconds to choose your three topics for the week, and your choices are rated on a percentage scale. If you don’t break 40% you lose a ton of money and skip the week. Assuming you do pick good ones, you get 35 seconds to like and dab as many comments as possible. It’s pretty hectic but from what I can tell, dabbing gets you $2, liking gets you $3, and blue comments get you $10. Food and rent together come to $110, so if you can’t get 30-40 comments right in 35 seconds you’re going to be losing money. It’s pretty unreasonable starting out, and the furthest I’ve gotten in about 20 minutes of attempts is week 4. That’s not terribly gratifying for a casual time-waster.

Games without much depth need to offer a more entertaining experience, but Dab on ’em Haterz expects you to work far too hard for virtually no payoff. Unless you are absolutely flying through comments with keen insight you’re going to be hemorrhaging money right from the start. Nobody wants to die a slow death in any game, least of all one that’s supposed to be a fun little time-waster. Frustrating too are the harsh penalties for flubbing the upload topics or the dab war button-mashing, as they can straight-up end your run. And even if you soldier on, your reward is more of the same vicious memes and frantic clicking, with no upgrades or unlocks or anything to look forward to at all.

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I appreciate the charming pixel graphics and the surprisingly good chiptune soundtrack, just not the core gameplay and the balance decisions surrounding it. I suppose you could put in the time to get good at Dab on ’em Haterz to have longer runs, but I’ll never do it. Skill in this game is a matter of identifying good and bad comments on the spot, understanding the memes that comprise them, and reflexively crushing through the list. I’m willing to learn just about any skill for a game but meme scholarship is not one I really care to develop, considering how much I despise reading actual YouTube comments. In real life I don’t dab on haters, I avoid them, and I would suggest you do the same with this title.

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