App Reviewed on: iPad 3
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Ronin sets itself apart from most of the endless runner crowd right from the outset thanks to being set in feudal Japan and featuring a master-less samurai. Of course we all know that a mere change in setting isn’t enough to make a game special. Thankfully there are plenty of smaller touches in this particular runner which do just that.
As with every other example of the genre, Ronin puts players in charge of a character who can’t stop (won’t stop) running and tasks them with either dodging around or plowing through various obstacles along the way in order to get as far as possible. The obstacles in this case are hostile enemies ranging from angry peasants to giant earth-moving ogres. All of the basic moves are available from the outset; swipe up to jump, down to slide, and to the side to slash with the sword. Combinations that allow for air attacks or sliding attacks are also possible, naturally. As the Ronin makes his way through an area’s various hazards he’ll also need to snag wisps that function as both score boosters and power-up fuel. But much like the life of a wayward samurai, it’s not all that easy at first.
Ronin’s strengths lie in the multitude of upgrades - both passive and active - that can be unlocked as the main character levels up and gains skill points. Some allow players to change him into a wolf for a temporary burst of incredible speed, some make him more durable and able to absorb an extra hit before going down. My personal favorite is the passive slowdown ability (recommended by the developers as well) that slows time down when approaching tough enemies and gives players a few extra vital fractions of a second to react. Plus it looks pretty cool.
The problem is that all this awesome needs to be fought for. Once players start to level-up and unlock some extra abilities Ronin can start to get really fun, but up until that point it’s something of a grueling slog. Heck, it can be downright frustrating. It doesn’t help that the interface falls victim to some fairly common multi-touch pitfalls, either. When playing on an iPad and holding it with a hand on each side, sometimes a thumb might slip or something, and if there’s any other contact on the screen then swipes don’t register. So in other words; watch the hands or risk running face first into an ogre.
It’s a shame that Ronin takes a bit of time to hit its stride because it runs the risk of scaring off impatient players. However, anyone who sticks with it for a level or two will undoubtedly find plenty of enjoyment. So long as they never put more than one finger on the screen, anyway.