Developer: Chillingo
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

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

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Load up Totem Runner for the first time and the most striking thing about it is the stunning visual style. Reminiscent of Playstation 3′s Outland and indie favorite Limbo, it’s gorgeous and very distinctive. It also covers up a number of problems with Totem Runner as anything that different deserves a little more credit than most.

Players take control of a warrior setting out to restore his world to the beauty that it once offered. This is done by running through each level, scattering grass amongst the land while also destroying enemies and obstacles that happen to be in the way. Totem Runner is an auto running title, an off shoot of the Endless Runner genre, meaning that the player doesn’t have to worry about travelling, just getting through each level.

Spread across five worlds consisting of four levels in each, players must transform between human, beast, crow and dragon in order to succeed. This is done through holding down the appropriate virtual button at the right time. The beast form is used to crash through vines and enemies or rocks. All that’s needed is to hold down the button and let rip. More interactive is the crow form which invokes tilting controls to navigate flying obstacles such as pillars or spiked creatures. The dragon form can only be used once it has been powered up through the acquisition of purple gems. Once unleashed, it flies through the air destroying pretty much everything in its wake.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? It kind of is but Totem Runner is also quite frustrating at times. The main issue I found was the size of the virtual buttons. They’re a little too small, meaning it’s all too easy to miss the right button at the right time, thus plummeting to your death. I have small hands and fingers so I can only imagine how much more frustrating this could be with bigger hands.

Each level also turns into a process of memorization which isn’t always very enjoyable. Stages rush by at speed and there’s hardly any time to plan moves. It’s more of a matter of reacting quickly and hoping for the best (or missing the correct button and dying), before returning to an earlier checkpoint to try all over again.

So, Totem Runner is fun but not as much fun as its appearances perhaps deserve. It’s a neat idea but with clumsy controls, it takes some persistence to truly enjoy.

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