Rayman Jungle Run Review

Rayman Jungle Run Review

Oct 17, 2012

So, who would have guessed that Rayman would wind up being the star of one of the best auto-runner games in a while? Yes, Rayman Jungle Run is an absolutely fantastic example of what auto-running platformers can be.

This is not an endless game, but primarily a level-based platformer where Rayman can’t stop, won’t stop running. He must get to the end intact, though he has hearts that he can pick up to protect him from minor damage. Along the way, he’s also trying to collect little firefly-esque creatures called Lums that populate the levels; collecting all 100 in a level collects a jeweled tooth that belongs to a ghastly grim-reaper-esque fellow who unlocks the Land of the Livid Dead, a level in each world that is notable for how extremely difficult it is.

Rayman starts out just with the ability to jump, but later on learns how to use his hair as a propellor to fly through the air, how to run on and along walls, and to punch through walls and enemies. It’s all the main abilities that Rayman is known for. As well, the game is known for its great art, especially in the modern Rayman Origins games, and thankfully Rayman Jungle Run runs on the same engine as those titles, so it looks absolutely spectacular.

While there are often extremely tight timing windows, here’s the thing about Rayman Jungle Run: It rarely if ever feels frustrating. This is thanks to the extremely tight controls that always do what they should. Level design is similarly tight: usually, getting all the items in each level feels like something that’s ‘supposed’ to happen when playing the right way. There’s a great variety of levels; only introducing new elements over time was a great choice, and keeps the game feeling fresh, though I got used to jumping by tapping on the right side of the screen; when punching was introduced I was thrown off for a short bit but it didn’t take long to adjust.

Rayman Jungle Run was developed by Pastagames, creators of Pix’n Love Rush, another fantastic auto-runner game, and this shows just how great they are at the genre. This is a must-play for platforming fans.

Super Bit Dash Review

Super Bit Dash Review

Jul 31, 2012

Super Bit Dash is an auto-runner that tries to do more than just have one or two commands for the player, using swipes and taps to allow the player to do various actions. Tapping on the screen jumps, and swiping forward or vertically will dash in that direction, with the advantage of not losing in height when dashing forward. Swiping backward causes the player to slow down for a brief moment to potentially avoid hazards. However, these dashes use up a coin from the player’s bar, which has to be refilled by collecting other coins. They’re spread liberally throughout the levels, but with dashes needed to break through blocks and get around spikes, irresponsible dashing can leave players high and dry in a deadly way.

Super Bit Dash boasts two modes: Classic, which has a set length; and Endless, which doesn’t end. Both modes are very similar: they’re randomly generated from a variety of level set pieces, and then randomly arranged together.

The controls all work very well; swiping is effective and simple enough to use. The chiptune soundtrack sounds like multiple variations on the same track, with new ones that play in each mode. Coins earned go toward unlcoking items and upgrades that can help out, such as additional coin slots, but there’s really one key upgrade to save for: the lumberjack costume. Everything is better with lumberjacks.

The difficulties of the game are somewhat imbalanced. Easy is in fact quite easy once the player gets the hang of the game. Hard proves to be rather difficult, with timing windows that are extremely difficult to manage when all put together. Endless being a “one life” mode makes both difficulties challenging, although on Hard, it can be instantly over if a particularly nasty section comes up early on.

This is the hazard of procedural level generation in a sense: it requires a particular intelligence in design in order to truly work properly, and Super Bit Dash feels like it doesn’t quite get the balance down right. Still, its core mechanic has enough interesting going with it to make it worthwihle for those looking for a unique auto-runner game.

Temple Run Review

Temple Run Review

Mar 27, 2012

Temple Run on Android is finally here! Yes, after countless fakes, a month delay, and plenty of apps that tried to take advantage of the game’s popularity (on launch day, the actual Temple Run was a couple dozen apps down the list on Google Play when searching for “Temple Run”). Well, Imangi’s smash hit auto-runner is here on Android, and despite a few early technical glitches, it does not disappoint.

The gameplay is the same: try to jump, slide, tilt and turn in time to keep running away from the evil monkeys chasing the ever-running hero down. Of course, along the way there are coins to collect, and powerups to collect coins, become invincible, or boost ahead to pick up as well. Coins can be spent on unlocking new characters, unlocking and upgrading powerups, and buying temporary boosts, including revive wings that will continue a run, but only are active for 30 seconds at a time.

The game was rebuilt in Unity, and the conversion was just about perfect. This looks and feels like Temple Run on iOS. That’s a very good thing, because the game is still a ton of fun. It’s easy to just jump from one session to the next, trying to collect even more coins, and raise that high score even higher. Temple Run does do a great job at being “free to have fun.” Coins are awarded at a regular rate, and it steadily increases over time as the player gets better, so spending coins is a way to get more coins. There’s none of that “second currency” funny business that other games use. This is a great free game.

The game is not really tablet-friendly at this point; on the Motorola Xoom, the game clearly looks like it has scaled-up graphical elements, and the frame rate does stutter a bit. On the Samsung Captivate, the game crashes every few games or so, with some occasional stuttering at times. The game supposedly supports over 700 devices at launch, but it’s still something being smoothed out. There are no online leaderboards at launch, like how the iOS version supported Game Center and showed friends’ scores while running. This is actually a rather notable omission, though Android’s lack of a built-in service make it harder to do. Some of my favorite times on the iOS version were when I was having high score battles with a friend.

Temple Run is popular for a good reason: it’s still extremely addictive and fun to play. There’s still a few things to iron out at launch, but the core game has been represented well. This is a must-have on Android just as it was on iOS.