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In pretty much every treasure hunting adventure movie there’s one specific scene in which the plucky hero finally gets his hands on the treasure but then has to navigate a maze of booby traps in order to get out alive. This game is this scene and nothing else. And it’s amazing. It has all the intensity of the preeminent automatic runner Canabalt, but with a few extra twists and a incredibly well-suited theme.
Each game starts the same: you grab a mystical object and then the chase begins. A gang of terrifying monkey-like creatures is always at your heels as you attempt to navigate a twisting maze full of obstacles. Unlike most automatic runners, this isn’t a 2-D side-scroller, but instead is fully 3-D and uses a third-person, over-the-shoulder camera.
The game also ups the complexity quite a bit. Instead of being a one- or two-button game, gives you a number of actions you can take. Swiping left or right on the screen will cause the thieving adventurer to change direction, while swiping up or down causes him to either jump over an obstacle or slide under it. You can also tilt your phone back and forth to guide him down the lane in an attempt to collect the plentiful coins that are littered around.
It’s more complicated, but it never feels too complex. After just a few games the controls will soon feel second nature. In an interesting twist, the game also features power-ups, but you have to unlock them. As you collect coins you’ll be able to buy things like a magnet that will suck in nearby coins or an invisibility power-up that magically creates bridges over gaps. Not only that, but the power-ups can be upgraded, which means you always have an incentive to play just one more go to collect some more coins.
What gets right is that, just like Canabalt, you constantly feel like you’re running from something, not just running for the sake of it. There’s this constant pressure that if you screw up those monkey monsters will be right there to catch you. And, in fact, if you stumble over a tree root or make another minor mistake, you’ll see them start to nip at your heels. It’s pretty intense.
The 3-D visuals aren’t all that detailed, but you probably won’t notice since you’ll be speeding by most of the scenery. The developers smartly decided to focus on making the game run fast and smooth– which it certainly does– as opposed to cramming it with unnecessary detail. Between the in-game visuals, the menus, and the music Temple Run manages to capture the pulpy adventure style perfectly.
Even if you think you’re sick of automatic runners, Temple Run proves there’s still much life left in the genre. It matches the sheer thrill and intensity of Canabalt, but with a completely new theme and perspective. We’ve all wanted to be Indiana Jones at some point, and now’s your chance.