So what makes a good game for the iPhone, other iOS devices and Android devices alike?
When you think about it, it seems to be quite a simple formula. When you browse through the titles available on your device’s respective app store, be it Androids Marketplace or in my case the iStore, you will always notice that games such as Cut The Rope, Fruit Ninja, Tiny Wings and any one of the Angry Birds games are always near the top of the list. What makes these games so popular is that they are ideal for playing on the move. They have a simple concept built on top of a simple idea. The games are simply controlled with a flick of a finger, or titling your device, meaning that the game is ideal for picking up and playing for a few minutes, waiting in line, commuting on a train or bus, or even when you just have some time to spare. The one other major factor about the games mentioned above, and many more to be found in the stores waiting to be downloaded, is that they are all highly addictive. They all have that ability to keep you coming back for just one more go in an effort to beat your own or even a friends previous best score.
Temple Run on the iPhone is no different. It presents the player with a simple aim which can best be described by likening it to the opening of the Indiana Jones movie where Indy finds the treasure and then has to run for his life as the temple begins to crumble. The game has the player taking control of an adventurer whom, at the start of game, comes sprinting from a temple after lifting a treasure. This would be the end of his adventure if it were not for the fact that he was being pursued by a group of mutant monkeys who are none to pleased at the removal of said treasure. It’s at this point that the player takes control, viewing their hero from behind, as they sprint continuously forward along a never ending trail which takes the shape of a path along a wall, a thinner rock ledge or a wooden pier. Whichever it is at any moment in the game, the player is surrounded by swampy waters waiting to swallow them at the slightest error. The path on which your character runs however is not a straight path, there are many twists and turns which come in the shape on ninety degree turns. As the player approaches one of these, you decide which way to turn with a simple flick of the finger on your touch screen left or right.
If this was all that the game required of you, it wouldn’t be that huge of a challenge. So with that in mind developers, Imangi Studios, decided to throw in a few more hazards in. Gaps and holes and tree roots growing out over the walkways on which you are running all had to be leaped with an upward flick of the finger. Likewise flaming barriers and arching trees placed over the path had to be avoided by sliding beneath them with a downward flick of the finger. The premise sounds easy enough and even in practice it is, the control system works perfectly. Any errors are solely down to the player, hitting any obstacle dead on or missing a turn is unforgiving and immediately results in game over. Even tripping on the pitfalls could be perilous, although this would not result in an instant end to the game, it did slow the player for a fraction of a second. This was more than enough for the chasing monkey mutants to close the gap, piling on the pressure. It would take the player a few seconds of clean running to increase the gap once more, two trips back to back however was all that was required for the monkeys to catch up and end the game. Things would not be so tough if the obstacles were spaced out, but let’s be honest, the game wouldn’t be half the challenge it is if that were the case. And so the player had to keep their eyes on the path ahead to see what obstacles were coming up and during later stages of the game it would start throwing double obstacles at you meaning your jumps had to be left to the very last second ensuring you had enough air time to clear both.
Another part of the game was coin collecting, as if lifting the treasure from the temple was not enough loot. The coins were scattered along the pathways and collecting them added another control method. Picking up the coins on the left and right edges of the pathways required the player to tilt their device to the left or right correspondingly, and doing so caused the adventurer to swerve to the left or right grabbing coins as they went. More than just being a marker of how well the player is doing, the coins actually served a purpose. Coins from game to game were accumulated and could be spent on purchasing and upgrading power-ups, special abilities and different adventurers, along with other items from the in game store. The power-ups included stuff like the coin magnet which, for a limited time, would pull all nearby coins directly to the player. Coin multiplier would multiply the value of collected coins. Invisibility allows the player to ignore obstacles for a limited time and Sprint works the same as invisibility, but also greatly accelerated the player for a certain distance. Single use abilities were also available from the store including the ability to respawn into the game after a death, or head start which boosted the players speed from the beginning of the game 500-1000 meters. Extra coins could also be purchased from the store for real money, which is a feature I am seeing a lot more in iPhone games.
Temple Run is nowhere near good enough to dethrone the king of iPhone games, Angry Birds, or even some lesser games of its kind. But it can sit proudly alongside them as a game which is an enjoyable, challenging and highly addictive experience. You will undoubtedly find yourself much like I did uttering those words that every gamer has done so before – “just one more go!”.
Temple Run is free to dwonload for iOS on the App Store and will be coming to Android later this month.