Games which fall into the “Free Running” genre have been all the rage for a while, mainly thanks to the massive success of Temple Run and its sequel. It’s easy to see why, as they’re accessible to everyone, quick to play, and require almost no gaming experience to play. Fun for all ages, then.
However, while gamers don’t have to think too much about how to play a free runner, developers have to work overtime. Why? Because the simplicity can quickly lead to repetitiveness, and without variety, clever power-ups, or fiendishly difficult levels, free runners can be abandoned after a few minutes.
We’ve been playing Galaxy Run, a free runner that differs from scrolling games like Temple Run, as all the action happens on a single screen. The game features space commander Rez, who has crash landed and needs help getting home. To do so, you must guide him through hundreds of levels, and take advantage of the special tools at your disposal.
While the background changes every so often, the basis of Galaxy Run’s challenge never does. Rez starts on one side of the screen, and must leap between platforms to reach an exit on the other side. The free running aspect comes into play straight away, as once Rez is off, there’s no stopping him until he goes through the exit, or falls to his doom.
A tap of the screen sets him on his way, and another makes him leap in the air. He must avoid everything from spikes on the ground to electric fences, and even disappearing platforms. To help you out, there are double humps, anti gravity spots and speed-ups. It’s here that Galaxy Run becomes less of a free runner and more of a traditional platform game. Its single screen layout and simple gameplay mean Galaxy Run would have been equally at home on an 8-bit machine in the 80s. Oh, and that’s a compliment.
There’s nothing 8-bit about the game’s style though, and the graphics are suitably sharp. The custom soundtrack’s good too, and is catchy enough for you to hum after playing the game for some time. The onscreen buttons and menu screens aren’t particularly inspiring, and there are times where the pause and refresh buttons don’t seem very responsive.
On the subject of the refresh button, here’s one of Galaxy Run’s little foibles. Each level has the usual one-to-three stars completion challenge, and it’s against the clock. However, rather than reseting the clock when you die, it pauses and restarts when you re-spawn. When you’re playing a tricky level, which has taken ten or more tries to pass, you can end up getting no stars at all when you finally nail it. Hitting the refresh button puts the clock back to zero, but it’s a needless extra stage to go through.
However, for the most part this won’t be a huge problem, as Galaxy Run’s difficulty level is skewed on the easy side. Most levels can be passed on the first try, and seeing as they often take less than five seconds to play, the game can zip by. There are some harder ‘Extreme’ levels, but again, they won’t trouble experienced players for long. This isn’t a bad thing though, as when free runners are too hard, they’re no fun at all.
Galaxy Run does have a few in-app purchases, which add special options like skipping the level or slowing down the action, but they’re not essential. The game costs £0.69 and is compatible with both the iPhone and the iPad, so it’s good value. There are more than 300 levels to play, so it’ll keep you entertained, but we’d question the long-term appeal, as there’s little variation. Galaxy Run is still fun, and if you like the sound of some classic platform action mixed with quick reactions needed for free runners, give it a try.