Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
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Canabalt clones seem to be coming out in droves these days and they all tend to do the same thing. You run to the right side of your screen on an endless path for as long as you can until you die. Until a Canabalt clone comes out that is better than Canabalt itself, I'll be unimpressed by games in the genre.
Dead Runner is an exception to the rule. It takes the idea of Canabalt and changes the game to first person. Instead of running to the right forever, you run straight ahead, and instead of jumping, you have to dodge trees.
The whole game is set in a spooky forest, one that would make any horror film fan proud. You're never sure why you are running, but you certainly are running for your life. The controls are based on extremely accurate accelerometer motion, allowing you to whip around trees with ease. As in Canabalt, the further you go, the faster the game becomes, making it harder and harder to dodge trees in the thick woods.
There are two game modes in Dead Runner, the standard "go faster as you go further" mode and a points mode. The points mode doesn't seem to make you go much faster as you go along, but there are items in the woods that you can collect that do speed up the game. For example, if you grab a 2x multiplier, you'll go two times as fast. The points game is an entertaining switch, but the real challenge is definitely in the original mode.
I like Dead Runner for what it does, but I wish there was a bit more of a sense of urgency. Canabalt had that great opening bit where you are jumping out of a building, and I wish there was some sort of quick graphic that would show why you are running. Maybe make some sound effects to make it sound like you are being chased. Put in some chainsaw sounds; that would really get me going.
If you like Canabalt style games and are looking for a twist on the genre, you'll enjoy Dead Runner. It's fast paced, looks nice, and has that great OpenFeint leaderboard that I know you want to crack. I'm currently #12 on the Distance Mode leaderboard and I plan to keep it that way. Grr.