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When Temple Run hit the App Store in summer 2011, it didn't look like much -- no thanks to its pixelated, original PlayStation-level graphics and unremarkable visual design. But the old adage about not judging a book by its cover holds true with free iOS games, as well, as its genre-shifting 3D twist on the traditional side-scrolling runner made it an absolute sensation, racking up more than 170 million downloads in the time since.
With new sequel Temple Run 2, Imangi Studios needn't worry about making a bad impression. Powered by a new engine and fresh character and level designs, the game looks startlingly better than its predecessors, including Disney-themed spinoff Temple Run: Brave. However, while the runners, environments, and animations are thankfully refreshed (though pop-in issues recur), it's the myriad changes and enhancements to the fleet-footed action that'll have fans transferring their obsessive tendencies over from the original game.
Granted, the behind-the-back running approach remains intact, with upward and downward swipes making your character leap over or slide under obstacles, side swipes used to turn, and tilts of your device letting you grab coins. But no longer are you facing straight and near-identical paths along the way. Now, the flashier routes feature zip lines and mine cart segments (the latter seen in Pitfall!, Activision's classic reboot-turned-Temple Run knock-off), not to mention twisting, curved paths. While you'll still see a lot of the same sights time and again, the randomly generated courses have a lot more options to pull from in building out each layout, which helps keep the chases lively as you aim to escape the enormous, pursuing monkey.
Temple Run 2 also now utilizes a Jetpack Joyride-inspired objectives system, with three small tasks available at any time and completed ones helping level up your profile, which brings bounties of coins and gems for unlocking abilities and characters. Much as this sequel follows a familiar general route, the numerous improvements help it handily top its predecessors and many of the games that followed in its path. It's still disappointing that folks can spend cash to help push their way up the leaderboards via coin and gem bundles, but assuming you only keep Game Center friends that you trust to progress on their own merits, the high score chase remains alive and well in this sparkling sequel.
The bottom line. Familiar framework aside, Temple Run 2's notable upgrades and thrilling pursuits make it one of the most entertaining free-to-play options around.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.2 or later
Improves the behind-the-back runner formula that its predecessor defined. Slick visual upgrade over previous entries. Endlessly repayable, especially with millions of potential Game Center rivals. Free and plenty enjoyable without cash.
Ability to buy coins and gems disrupts leaderboard balance. Visual pop-in is an issue, even on iPhone 5.