Thursday, 16 October 2014

The case for giving Endless Runners some love!

When a game (or entire genre) is simple and straightforward in appearance, professional and armchair critics alike feel compelled to dismiss the title or not give it its proper due. And that's a shame, because oftentimes the most "obvious" games can be deceptive in their difficulty and entertainment value. 

This is especially true in the world of endless runner games, where players are (typically) tasked with the most basic action—run, run, RUN until you just can't do it anymore. At least, that's what it seems like you're tasked with once you begin playing. However, these games usually get more complicated and, in many cases, absolutely absurd as you continue to play. The straight-ahead concept remains the same—you seriously never stop running in some cases—but developers have worked on making the experience less repetitive.

You can thank indie studio Imangi Studios for that, as they pretty much revolutionised the endless runner concept with Temple Run. Here's a game that is just as simple as it is difficult, because good luck getting far without some decent (if not great) motor skills. Essentially, you take on the role of an Indiana Jones lookalike who's trying to avoid being captured/destroyed by a monster. And during your trek through the shape-shifting path out of the temple, you run through the jungle, under and over boulders and logs, down a river, and more.

Rightfully so, Temple Run has spawned a sequel, off-shoots, and plenty of games inspired by the idea of running until it's pretty much impossible. For those of you looking for like-minded titles that have taken the endless runner approach to entirely new levels, I recommend trying out some of the games listed in this Verizon Wireless article. In the post, the author breaks down five endless runners considered the best of the bunch, and I'm willing to agree on at least one of them.

That's PunchQuest, a remarkably fun game created by the crew at RocketCat Games. Rather than having the player simply progress through increasingly difficult situations, you have to beat the blazes out of whatever comes your way. You can jab, slam, and uppercut a number of retro-looking beasts and baddies, including bats, goblins, and even gnomes, all of whom want to take you out. Yeah, don't let that happen.

Another highly recommended endless runner is Bugs Vs. Aliens, a 3D title that we recently wrote about as it received its first big update. This strongly reviewed game is heavy on the physics and artificial intelligence, the latter of which isn't really stressed in a lot of endless runners. It is here, though, and rightfully so, as you must lead your army of bugs through battle scenarios where they face off against aliens. Again, this sounds simple, right? Yeah, well, good luck getting far with that mentality, because developer Keemba Studios (their site redirects to the game page) put in serious work to ramp up the difficulty as you progress.

What's most intriguing about any potential criticism of the endless runner genre is that its forefather—the platformer—is recognised as one of backbones of modern gaming. Without the platformer, we wouldn't have so many classic games and franchises that it would be impossible to begin listing them all. And as any gamer knows, the platformer has clearly taken on a number of different qualities as it's evolved over the years. With that in mind, it'll be interesting to see where its little brother, the endless runner, goes in the near future.

This is a guest post by Jared Harris. When he's not coming up with a new gaming-related article, Jared can be found looking for the next best indie game. Lately, he's been hooked on endless runners.

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