Developer: Sega
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.00
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Sega has revived the long-dormant Zaxxon series with a curious new genre, one designed to capitalize on a current trends: a Temple Run-style auto-runner called Zaxxon Escape.

Don’t go, though! While Zaxxon Escape may not be as well-constructed as Temple Run was, it’s got a lot going for it on its own merits to be worth checking out for the auto-runner fan.

First, the theme. A space-based 3D auto-runner is a neat twist, and actually a clever use of the Zaxxon license, even if there’s no isometry to be seen here. But most importantly, with an exploding core to try and outrun, the game provides an actual justification for why the player must escape as quickly as possible. It’s a subtle thing, but it adds a lot to a game in my eyes. One Epic Knight tried to be snarky about it, but I like having a good reason to keep going top speed.

Second, the 360-degree tilting to dodge obstacles and collect gaps makes the Zaxxon Escape feel like an actual iteration on the 3D endless runner. There’s new challenges presented by this mechanic that are original to to this game. It may be frustrating at times to try and get to the perfect angle to get through a diagonal gap especially, but there’s an incredible satisfaction when several of them are flown through quickly. \Tapping to shoot is also an integrated part of the game, instead of being a randomly-occurring split-off section as in Temple Run: Brave, it’s actually used to regularly destroy obstacles and collect powerups.

The game is universal, but it’s really a lot better on smaller devices. I’d probably recommend the 3:2 devices like the iPhone 4S but considering the game won’t boot on the iPod touch 4th gen at all, I’ll just say that using it on an Android phone was a much better experience, though a 16:9 screen was just a bit clunky to keep rotating. So be careful.

Third, the game doesn’t mess up what it shouldn’t mess up. There’s one currency, he says while shifting an accusatory glance at Pitfall, and many of the upgrades are earnable through actual gameplay. New ships and some of the consumable powerups will be more easily earned with IAP, but that’s par for the course; the rest of the game is perfectly playable through standard play. This structure is a great balance between being fair for all parties involved.

The 3D endless runner genre could use more games like Zaxxon Escape, ones that try to do something new with their concepts. It doesn’t always succeed, but it is still a fun take on the genre.

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