In an overnight update, the immensely popular free-to-play endless runner Temple Run 2 added the first guest character in series history today – and it's Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter who owns multiple world records, including the fastest-ever 100-meter sprint (9.58 seconds). While this might seem like an ideal opportunity for a free promotional addition, or something to reward die-hard players who have racked up a bundle of gems or coins to spend on a new runner, unlocking Bolt requires an in-app purchase of $0.99.
As with last year's Temple Run: Brave, the new Temple Run: Oz takes the framework of the latest core entry – in this case the recent Temple Run 2 – and gives it a Disney-fied makeover tied to a big-budget flick. This time around, it's Oz The Great and Powerful, a prequel to the iconic Wizard of Oz, and the result is a game in which you'll guide a digital approximation of James Franco along a yellow brick road filled with obstacles and collectibles alike. While visually vivid and solidly enjoyable as a behind-the-back runner, Temple Run: Oz simply hits too soon after Temple Run 2 to generate much enthusiasm.
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, thanks to dramatic visual improvements and welcomed gameplay enhancements.
If you happen to live in New Zealand, you can already enjoy the free fun of Temple Run 2. For those of us in the U.S., it's going to be a long day waiting for it to arrive in the App Store in our time zones.
So the premise is a little contrived, but that doesn't stop this trifecta of free games from being any less awesome. Come with me, readers, as we dash from monkey spirits in Temple Run, play deadly bumper cars in VS. Racing, and create a fantasy village in DragonVale.