With a name like Marvel Run Jump Smash!, it’s fair to expect something lively and exciting — which isn’t typically a tall task for the iconic Marvel Comics heroes featured in this side-scrolling endless runner. But despite taking its cues from genre greats like Jetpack Joyride and Punch Quest (and pairing that blend with a cute cartoonish aesthetic), this licensed affair can’t help but feel dull and dopey, thanks in large part to its laboriously slow progression system.
After utilizing an open-city design for its premium Iron Man 2 movie game – complete with the requisite array of screen-cluttering virtual buttons – Gameloft opted for something simpler, swifter, and certainly cheaper for the next tie-in. Released in advance of the latest live-action Marvel Comics romp, the free-to-play Iron Man 3 sends Tony Stark soaring ahead through multiple locales, with alternating sequences that find him swiftly dodging traffic and aerial obstacles, zapping waves of foes, and even fighting through narrative-led boss battles. Blazingly fast and initially quite fun, this gratis game easily warrants a download from fans, though the thrills are short-lived.
It's fair to say that the original Robot Unicorn Attack was built on a gag concept. Its hard-edged riff on the hearts-and-rainbows style of artist Lisa Frank offered an amusing visual contrast, while the looping synth-pop classic "Always" by Erasure only cemented its absurdist intentions. But the game itself was no joke, as the rousing endless runner became a genre favorite that even spawned a couple of spin-offs. Robot Unicorn Attack 2 is an all-new entry, though, and while maintaining the fundamental elements of the debut, it makes the previous titles seem downright prehistoric by comparison. And it also offers one of the friendliest free-to-play models we've seen in any iOS game to date.
Aside from maybe Batman, it's difficult to think of licensed characters who've been in as many games, in as many incarnations, as the Ninja Turtles. Their latest effort (based on the current Nickelodeon show) has muscled its way into an arguably overcrowded genre, but while Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rooftop Run is far from the best endless runner on the App Store, it manages to be a fun, sharp-looking romp that requires a fair amount of skill in spite of its simple controls.
The endless runner genre has been particularly well-plumbed on Apple's devices. Some of the App Store’s best-selling games are not only endless runners, but sequels, spin-offs, and imitators of existing genre entries. This environment leaves very little room for plucky upstarts like Danger Boat, as it accents similarities and demands innovative differences for a title to really stand out. Danger Boat is, at its core, very much like others in the genre. From an overhead perspective, you'll use tightly responsive tilt controls on your iPhone or iPad to steer past obstacles such as missiles, rocks, and depth charges.
Sonic the Hedgehog's rough modern history on consoles is well-documented, and his traditional iOS entries have likewise been hit-or-miss. Lately, Sega's tried to improve the blue blur's fortunes on the App Store by pairing his iconic look and abilities with tried-and-true mobile formulas. Sonic Jump aped the Doodle Jump formula with middling results, and now Sonic Dash aims to put the hero into a behind-the-back endless runner. While it's certainly a better thematic fit than the former title, this awkward entry never quite finds its footing.
It's tough to believe that Wave Trip would exist in a world without Sound Shapes. Like that brilliantly experiential PlayStation 3 and Vita platformer, Wave Trip merges music-making with a new take on a well-worn gameplay style, with both allowing users to create and share their own stages using the existing level elements on a simple grid-based layout. The similarities extend into music styles and visual design, but using that framework with a side-scrolling runner makes it feel like more than just a noteworthy imitator, with a stronger focus on skill creating a much different overall tone.
The world has been forever changed by a zombie outbreak, and your only means of escape has crashed in the middle of a field crawling with the undead. As the zombies close in, there’s just one course of action available: sprint toward a radio antenna on the distant horizon, the sound of your own labored breath echoing in your ears, and do your best to dodge the flesh-eaters as they stumble out of the fog and rise up from the tall grass. Your predicament is hopeless; eventually they’ll catch you, and the last thing you’ll hear is your own screams. The only real question, as Into the Dead demonstrates, is how far you can get before that happens.