Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rock Runners [Chillingo + Recoil Games] - $0.99

I will definitely admit that Chillingo titles have been going downhill for quite some time. It really seems like they have no screening process what-so-ever when it comes to choosing what games from what developers they’re going to publish. Because of this, bugs never get fixed and ‘Coming Soon’ content never arrives. It also hasn’t helped that they’ve dropped almost every single title down to free within the same month of it’s release. But, and yes, there is a but here, they are picking up steam again. Over the last 3 or 4 months, Chillingo titles have been getting bug fixing updates as well as promised content. They are also not dropping every title down to free a week or two after release. It does give us hope that they’re trying to earn back some of that reputation that faltered over the last year and a half or so. Because of this, one of their newest releases, Rock Runners, hit our devices this week, and it is one hell of a great game. 

Now, we’ve been saying for a while that auto-running platformers and endless runners are starting to come back onto the more popular side of iOS gaming genres because they’re growing and expanding again. Not every new title falls into this category, but quite a few do. This is another one of the main reasons why Rock Runners caught our eye. But once we got into it and realized that it doesn’t add anything new to the genre. We were also reminded that a game doesn’t need to bring something new to the table to completely hook us. While Rock Runners doesn’t really focus on originality, everything else it focuses on is done to perfection. The graphics, animations, sounds, physics, level design, gameplay mechanics, upgrades and everything else within the game is amazingly well polished. So much so that while it’s not necessarily original, it does stand out as one of the best auto-running platformers we’ve had the pleasure of playing on the iOS. 

Rock Runner’s one gameplay mode contains 4 different worlds with over 140 stages. Like most mobile games, there are 3 possible objectives for each stage. Every stage has two objectives that are always the same; Reach the Goal and Beat X:XX (Time Limit). Other than those two, you’ll be faced with collecting a certain percentage of gems; 90%, 95% and sometimes even 100%, Avoid the Purple Goo, Avoid Damage, Do Not Stumble and Avoid Drills. Along with these objectives, there will be a set path of levels that will make up your World Time. Here, you can better your times in these stages and compete on any of the 4  GameCenter leaderboards that each world has. There are also 52 achievements you can try and unlock, though most of them are accessible just by playing through and completing the game, so there’s not much replay value added in with them. Not to say that there’s not already tons of replay value here with the objectives, times and star system.  

The gameplay is incredibly solid. Not only are you able to tap to jump, with the jump length and height depending on how long you hold your finger down, you’re also able to swing with a grapple, which is also done by holding on the screen whenever you’re in range of a hook, and use portals to either go back and collect missed gems, keys that unlock levels throughout the game, bigger gems, or reach higher up platforms. Also, you’re given a boost bar at the top of the screen that fills up when you collect gems. Once you collect enough gems, you’ll boost until you either run into an object or complete the level. Not only do gems result in giving you a boost and quicker level completion times, but once you fill up your boost gauge, you’ll also activate your gem multiplier. 

Your gem multiplier, as well as other special items and characters, can be upgraded and bought in the game’s shop. Here, you’ll be able to increase your gem multiplier from 2X upto 3X, 4X and finally, 5X, activate and upgrade a gem magnet, shield and booster. Each time you upgrade these power-ups, you’ll also unlock another slot to store said power-up. Once you run out, you’ll need to recharge the slots so that you can use the powers again. I will admit that this does sound a bit expensive, but with the gem multiplier upgrade and the sheer amount of gems included in every level (anywhere from 600 [in the beginning of the game] to 3,000 towards the end), you’ll be able to upgrade and purchase items at a fairly quick pace. Also, recharging of the power-ups is very cheap (between 250 and 375 depending on how many slots you have available). Extra characters do not come with additional stats or powers, and are purely cosmetic, but do cost quite a bit (20,000 gems for each of the two characters). 

The graphics, animations and the amount of polish and charm that’s oozing out of the game is outstanding. The environments do not change much, and the level design for each world is basically a ton of little bits and sections that are just swapped out and mixed up with each other (though each world does introduce it’s own set of sections), but with the gameplay that’s so incredibly solid and just plain fun, it’s hard to care that much. The BGM does help set a cheerful and energetic mood, matching the lavish color palate and bright visuals. 

With Rock Runners being Universal and with hours upon hours of gameplay, especially if you get into some time battles on the GC leaderboards, the price of $0.99 is a steal. Chillingo has done a great job of trying to turn their studio around, and with Rock Runners having a possible 5th world in the works, we definitely hope that Recoil Games keeps working on this great runner and we do actually get the promised content. But even without it, at the cheap price, Rock Runners is a must own if you’re a fan of the auto-running platformer genre. If nothing else, we definitely hope that Recoil sticks with iOS video game development, because we’d love to see more titles from them hit the AppStore over the next couple years. 


"I will definitely admit that Chillingo titles have been going downhill for quite some time"
Yeah, I pretty much avoid all Chillingo games anymore, but thanks for finding the few good ones in the ever growing pile of app tripe!

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