Combining auto-running with a voxel style, Voxel Runner (80 MSP) is the newest in the vaunted series of games with very literal names (and that’s only a partial joke; I personally would have had my heart set on Run Voxel Run, but I digress). It’s also not a bad debut (from developer Dizzy Pixels) and addition to the sub-genre despite the numerous competitors (The Impossible Game and its ilk) that came before it.
The game trots you out on a perpetual jog / jump / slide / crash course over 30 consecutive stages (with checkpoints every two or three levels) of escalating difficulty and complexity. You should know what you’re getting into. Still, games like this beg the question; what does anyone see in dying over and over again merely to learn patterns for one stretch, just to die over and over again in the next section? That I don’t know the answer to. Much like quasi-cheeses injected into hot dogs, there’s a market for it. Must be a lot of death (and cheese) fetishists out there.
To its credit, Voxel Runner seems to go easier on you than most of its predecessors. The controls are tight and responsive (so long as you don’t hold down the jump button by mistake), and each series of obstacles runs a manageable length before triggering a respawn point. You’re still destined to die, naturally, though the game attempts to disguise some of that banality in repeated deaths with its abilities (see trailer above), introduced one at a time and eventually used in tandem.
Occasionally there are multiple solutions to a given sequence. Using the speed boost and high jump abilities, for instance, can bypass some jumps and spikes, cutting down on time and irritability on your multiple retries. And while pattern-learning is still a necessity, the patterns themselves are varied and somewhat satisfying to plow through on a perfect run, cheating death for a few, always-fleeting seconds.
So, ‘laying down’ is considered an ability now?
The awards / achievements for fulfilling certain requirements (of course I earned the trophy for reaching my death quota first) are nice; leaderboards would have been a stronger impetus. As it is, there’s not too much in the way of replayability. Auto-runners by definition are a streamlined experience, one and done, and part of the curse in being a critiquer is always seeing how something could have been improved upon or expanded, but Voxel Runner is more solid than most.
Even with that competence and its graphical aesthetic, the game will likely have a tough go at making any converts or significant inroads. There’s too many other options already, and with a certain BIT.TRIP title just released, that task is heavier. Voxel Runner is a cheaper alternative, however, and its forgiving nature means more people that aren’t necessarily dialed into death-avoidance will find some enjoyment here.