REVIEW: Star Runner

Forget witty sayings and fancy marketspeak; sometimes, Less is just… Less. Releasing a shockingly-standard ‘endless runner’ more or… less, narrows down the definition your game can achieve to a few sentences. Looking like a leftover Game Boy project is one of… well, really the only thing, that Star Runner ($1.00) can claim as interesting.

It’s one-button basic, with you using jumps to stay ahead of the scrolling screen and dodge the zombie horde, all the while throwing children and old folks into their path to facilitate your own escape. Yeah, chivalry is dead, and you‘re quite literally stomping on its head, as that is the objective. A poorly-done one at that, too, as the timing for your pedestrian jumps (successful hits also add to your score) never manages to feel quite right, even after you’ve been at it for an hour or better.

True to form, the puke-colored assets don’t allow much visual creativity, but there is a decent amount of level variety that sees you running through yards, across moving airplanes, cavorting with ninjas, smashing through windows, etc. This too, is another potential benefit partially offset by careless design, as early on (say, stage 1-3), you’re tripped up by barriers and hazards that don’t look like barriers and hazards, or by enemies that show no immediately-clear path around them. Repetition sets in quickly, forcing restart after restart until you learn the proper route through frustration, rather than any clever layout or use of skill.

Star Runner - Screen

Later levels may ditch the ‘following threat’ of zombies, but only accentuate these mechanical troubles, adding projectile-tossing baddies (groooaannnn) and even more timing-based obstacles to hurtle over or through, finishing off what‘s left of your patience.

So, in the end, less is just less. Humor and best intentions aside, Star Runner trips and falls flat on its green face. There’s far too many marks to tally against its already simplistic ideas, and the Game Boy aesthetics can’t do enough to make a nostalgic difference.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick

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15 thoughts on “REVIEW: Star Runner”

  1. I can understand the appeal of runners on mobile and ones like Canabalt are proof that you can make a cool game with the absolute minimum of player input; but the claim these games capture some kind of retro simplicity always kind of irked me. It’s similar to the phenomenon behind IWBTG, games were *never* really like that!

    The obvious comparison for any runner would be Adventure Island/Wonder Boy; but even the archetypal punishing run and jump game gave you quite a bit more control and interesting variables to tangle with. Sure, you had to constantly keep Master Higgins (or WB) moving forward; but the pace and flow of the game was in your hands enough that mistakes felt like your own fault far beyond simply “not pressing the only button at the precise millisecond the game demands.”

    I don’t know how much that applies to this particular game, though. Just wanted to get it off my chest. >_>

    1. Well-vented, and thanks for the Adventure Island / Wonder Boy comparison, as that’s actually something I would’ve never considered despite the obvious gameplay similarities. They came about before the term ‘endless runner’ was around, of course, so that’s why they’re considered platformers. I think the ‘retro simplicity’ angle comes in with the graphic style most times, though some do nail the look (…and feel, …and difficulty) of a retro game (Vintage Hero and Rad Raygun come to mind) better than others.

      With the endless runner genre and Star Runner, there’s already better games to be found that keep it simple while still advancing the gameplay, both on mobile and XBLIG (Silver Dollar’s The Jump Hero is still a highly-addictive game I go back to on occasion). As you said, they do more to give you control than simply punishing you for being out of sync.

    2. I’ll have to give Jump Hero a go. 🙂

      I probably like Vector best out of the runners I’ve played, which is decidedly not very retro in presentation. It’s really no less rigid in a lot of ways (at least once the difficulty ramps up); but simply *feeling* like you have a multitude choices goes a long, long way.

      … and I’m kinda tempted to try my hand at a one-button Adventure Island style game just having brought it up, haha.:D

    3. Vector is a solid game. Didn’t put much time into it, but I appreciated the moveset and the presentation. There were definitely some jumps and sections that required a set move or series of moves, though you do have the option to mix things up with your stunts. 🙂

    1. So long as they didn’t get down to take a closer look, then start talking to it like a puppy, saying how cute the little guy is, I think you’re okay. If that -has- happened, I am sincerely sorry.

    2. That’s why I only date women that wear really thick glasses. OK OK I’m lying. I don’t date any women but I’m married to a blind women that was a virgin when I met her! LMAO

    3. Aye, thats a way.

      I always see talking to woman as an exercise in fuitality.
      Like runners. No matter how far you get, you’re victory will never come. Theres no winning. You just go as far as possible.

      War on time continuing.
      And I’m losing. Hopefully it’ll improve, but my team’s morale is low.

    4. Between ‘time’, ‘love’ and ‘endless runners’, you’re trying for too much disappointment at once. Life is long, plenty of room for the in-between troubles. You’ve got to ease into your disappointment, one letdown at a time. Solid advice. And that’ll solve the morale problem, or at least stretch it enough to cover all of the inevitable. 🙂

  2. I’m not really a fan of runners so this review seems pretty spot on. I dld the trial, but haven’t given it a go. Might pass now. Tim, do you play phone games? I never did until my Galaxy S3 and I’ve been surprised the number of games that I really love and have not paid a cent! !

    1. There’s the flip of the coin with phone games, too. A lot of free stuff, certainly. I don’t do a lot of gaming on the phone, besides the casual stuff, or games that other family members are into. Actually, I found myself playing a lot of ‘Running with Friends’, which has somehow remained effective as a endless runner. It’s a type perfect for touch controls, so I can see the appeal in creating one. Just not sure why there’s so many also-rans that don’t bother to innovate or even try.

  3. Tim, I see runner burnout in you.
    Trust me, it is way tougher on the iphone market.
    I skip runners now. Yes, even hurdle turtle.
    Its all just so much the same.

    1. Oh, I know it. 🙂 I’ve repeatedly said I’m glad I don’t review iPhone games, and I am. It’s not that I expected Star Runner (formerly previewed as Runner Girl) to be great, just competent. Sadly, it couldn’t even do that. The genre really needs a rest, at least until someone figures out a new formula / way to make it interesting again.

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