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Developer: XperimentalZ Games
Price: $1.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

The endless runner genre certainly hasn’t suffered for a lack of available content of late. Innumerable releases have taken the formula made popular by games like Canabalt, Robot Unicorn Attack and Solipskier and attempted to iterate on it (or, in most cases, just not even bothering to iterate) to varying degrees of success.

But just how much change is actually possible in a genre where the very addictive nature that makes it so much fun is tied to the inherent simplicity of the premise? Is it enough to simply slap a fresh skin on an existing framework and call it good?

Don’t Run With a Plasma Sword doesn’t come to the table with any massively unexpected twists that will make us rethink how we look at at endless runners, but it doesn’t really need to in order to be a decent experience. A mish-mash of varying influences – comic books, alien invasion tropes, and Star Wars – give the game enough personality to stand away from the pack.

The theremin-drenched soundtrack (an essential component to get that proper 1950s sci-fi feel) sets the stage for the proceedings. Newsstand clerk Cornelius, following the serendipitous collision of an inspirational fortune cookie and the looming menace of bug-eyed extraterrestrials, decides that it’s his job to save the world. This task apparently involves a lot of running, jumping and slashing aliens with game’s titular weapon. Sure, why not?

Plasma Sword’s unlock system certainly adds replay incentive with plenty of cosmetic changes for the character’s avatar, as well as numerous new moves and enhancements that are themselves upgradable. And Plasma Sword actually sets their upgrades at reasonably achievable prices and allows XP farming by replaying previously finished levels (unlike others I’ve reviewed of late). Heck, they even hand out free XP each day that the player boots up the game! Another nod to the consumer is the fact that players can always unlock the next level with enough accumulated points. XperimentalZ Games at least understands that nobody likes to get stuck in an endless frustration loop.

Generally, however, any frustrations aren’t insurmountable. A legend explaining the various power-ups would have been appreciated, though eventually you learn them by trial-and-error. I noticed a few spots where the audio sounded like it was clipping due to poor mastering (the title screen theme, for instance). Also, the art style in the cutscenes doesn’t jive with me 100%, but minor stylistic quibbles like this don’t change the fact the gameplay is, by and large, well done.

Yes, a few cheap deaths aside, Don’t Run With a Plasma Sword is another solid endless runner with a little bit of action-platformer thrown in. So throw the instruction manual out the window and give this one a try if you’re a fan of the genre. Did I mention the theremin? It really is rather neat.


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