Run Like Hell Review
After attempting to grab the tail of the raging tiger that is Destiny, I figured I’d find a respite in a small, straightforward game. There’s no massive controversy surrounding a blockbuster production here. There’s no gazillion-dollar budget and legions of satisfied gamers doing battle with legions of pissed-off gamers. Nah, Run Like Hell is a fun albeit incomplete little platformer that reverts you to a time when gaming was much simpler. And when I say simpler, of course I’m referring to concept and mechanics, ‘cuz we all know older games were much more challenging.
One can find evidence of Run Like Hell’s throwback persona in the bright, vibrant visuals. This colorful palette actually reminded me of the lost days of California Games, with the ironically comical difference that in this game, you’re running for your life. The effects are somewhat understated but they fit the tropical atmosphere, and I always appreciate hand-drawn graphics. The game exudes a unique, attractive style, as its cartoon-y exterior belies the title and serious situation in which the main character finds himself. In other words, like so many games of old, it’s a tongue-in-cheek side-scrolling adventure.
The game is lighthearted and fun and as such, the soundtrack and effects reflect that theme. The music clearly has its roots in bouncy island music, but it’s also fast-paced and strangely hypnotic. In fact, the score adopts a surprisingly central role in the game; it was hard for me to imagine racing along without the incessant tiki-tiki-like beats following my every step. There isn’t much else to talk about regarding technical presentation, although I will say it’s not exactly impressive. Here, you’re not evaluating a ton of voice acting performances, nor are we talking about photorealistic graphics. The level design is decent, though, and that music is just so essential.
For a brief history lesson, Run Like Hell originally launched as an iOS production in 2012. Now, Polish developer Mass Creation has brought their ceaseless running game to Sony’s portable, and it does offer a fair amount of entertainment value. The problem is that it’s incredibly one-sided, it’s relatively short, and it’s not perfectly stable. The concept is sound and while the execution isn’t 100 percent accurate, the game does have that invaluable addictive element. It just depends on whether or not you’ll grow bored or frustrated before you complete the hectic adventure.
I’m calling it a platformer but one could also call it a “runner,” that new sub-genre of side-scrolling gaming that has a character racing pell-mell, encountering obstacles and snagging the occasional power-up. In this case, the protagonist must escape tireless hordes of cannibals as they chase after him with murderous intentions. You must jump, slide and dash your way to freedom, conquering the island’s wide assortment of obstacles. With every misstep you come closer to your own demise, and that’s incentive enough for you to keep going. All “runners” offer this kind of urgency, and it does work to some extent.
One bonus is that you’re not limited to simply running and jumping. There are a few power-ups that add some spice to the gameplay: Lightning Strike is the most powerful, which stuns your pursuers for a few seconds. That may not sound like much but when they’re nipping at your heels, Lightning Strike can be a lifesaver. Fog doesn’t stop the natives but it does slow them down. Then there’s Adrenaline that lets you move faster simply by pressing forward on the d-pad. It shouldn’t be used unless you know what’s coming, though; you’re already moving at pretty good clip and going quicker can lead to disaster.
As for available modes, there’s Story, Arcade, and Online. Story Mode features over 30 levels set across various locales and they’re not all tropical. Seems like cannibals reside all over the globe, and this unlucky treasure hunter encounters them wherever he goes. The goal is simple: Reach the boat before the cannibals reach you. By learning the level’s layout and strategically sampling the power-ups, you’ll be successful. And don’t worry, these aren’t procedurally generated levels, which I think would be infinitely irritating. As for story, there isn’t much of one, which is only mildly disappointing. It’s a “runner” platformer; what do you expect?
Arcade has you trying to survive as long as possible, and Online lets you challenge other players. Up to four players can tackle any given level at once, and you can collect coins used to unlock new character skins and purchase more Adrenaline. If you’re impatient, you can buy coins from the PlayStation Store and unfortunately, that’s not a bad option, because it takes a long time to get enough coins the conventional way. If you can’t find anyone to play against online, you’ll play against bots, but that’s not anywhere near as much fun. The multiplayer experience isn’t exactly a huge draw, though, and sadly, neither is the single-player quest.
It only takes about two hours to finish the Story Mode and as I said, it’s not completely stable. It’s weird that sometimes, it seems the cannibals were too far away to catch you (and yet, they did) and other times, it appears they’ve got you, but you inexplicably continue to elude them. It’s just not reliable enough. Control is fine but after a while, you start to tire of doing basically the same thing, over and over. I wanted a simple, fun ride and that’s almost what I got. But this is a little too simple, to the point where it feels empty and unfulfilling. Then again, I probably shouldn’t demand too much from an iOS game.
Even so, Run Like Hell doesn’t really fly on the Vita. It just feels too much like a mobile game, you know? There’s not a huge amount of content and what’s there is so basic that you start to lose interest after the first half-hour. Besides, it’s really not that much different than the previous iOS version, which is a good deal cheaper. While it’s definitely fun in short bursts, I wouldn’t say this game is a worthy addition to the Vita lineup, just because it’s so shallow. Still, I suppose if you’re desperate for more on-the-go experiences, Run Like Hell isn’t a terrible option.
The Good: Vivid, attractive graphics. Driving soundtrack is a focal point. Decent control. Various game modes. Fun factor is high for a while.
The Bad: Not exactly a technical tour de force. Feels light on substance and content. Story Mode doesn’t really deliver. Somewhat erratic and unreliable.
The Ugly: “Getting chased has a finite entertainment value.”
9/19/2014 Ben Dutka