Developer: Wode Mobile
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPod Touch

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Shadow Runner is one of those games with an incredibly simple concept that draws its appeal from slowly upping the challenge level until you’re pulling out your hair in frustration, but in a good way. Still, it’s the sort of game which may not manage to appeal to every type of gamer. Ultimately, the amount of fun you have with Shadow Runner will likely be directly proportional to how much you enjoyed the Shadow Mario stages in Super Mario Galaxy 2.

The premise of Shadow Runner couldn’t be simpler, you must get your character from the black door to the white one without touching one of the shadow versions of yourself which pops out every few seconds from the level’s start point. These copies will replicate all your movements exactly, so in some stages you’ll see every jump, turn and step you’ve taken repeated a dozen times by your doppelgangers. The tricks in the game are twofold; first, the exit door opens slowly, requiring you to sometimes move about the level for a long while before you can make your escape. Second, while your first objective is merely to survive, you earn more stars by staying in a stage after the door has opened, so maxing out your score requires careful planning and a nearly suicidal willingness to keep putting yourself in harm’s way in spite of the fact that failure is constantly nipping at your heels.

Thankfully, you are given ample time to strategize due to the fact that shadows stop whenever you do, so there’s no need to be in a constant state of motion. The game also helpfully maps out each shadow’s next few steps so you can see where they’re going to be in the hopes of avoiding them. While this makes the game a far less white knuckle experience, it also removes several layers of frustration.

One area which does still manage to create frustration is the control scheme, which is simple yet inelegant. Three giant arrows (left, right and up) control all movement, and they also take up a large chunk of space on the screen. While the oversize controls make it easy to change direction or quickly jump, they don’t ease the pain of one of Shadow Runner’s biggest hurdles, the wall jump. In a game which allows players to stop at any time and plan ahead the wall jump still requires quick movements and good dexterity in order to prevent your character from falling. Long wall jump sequences can be especially trying, and it’s extremely frustrating to near the top of a long series of jumps only to fall and land square in the lap of a waiting shadow.

Shadow Runner is a great game for folks who crave a challenge and revel in the precision platforming of titles like Bit.Trip Runner, but it may turn off those who prefer a more casual experience. There’s a degree of niche appeal here, but that niche will likely have a great time running through levels over and over in an attempt to max out their score.

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