App Reviewed on: iPhone 4s
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Rock Runners is the latest auto-runner for iOS from one of the platform's mega-publishers, Chillingo. In this game, players take control of an interplanetary explorer in their quest for gems... and fuel...? which you collect while running...? and they make you fast...? or something? The point is, the story really doesn't matter in Rock Runners; it's just a tightly designed, highly addictive game of speed and skill, making it a ton of fun.
Playing Rock Runners couldn't be simpler: Your character runs forward automatically, and players are tasked with simply tapping the screen to make their character jump or otherwise interact with the environment to reach a finish line. As you progress through each world in the game (currently, there are four, with a promise of more to come), players will become increasingly thankful for this simple control scheme, as the levels get more complex and devilish in their design, making the timing window of each tap increasingly smaller and the consequences of missing much larger.
Although the game can get quite difficult, Rock Runners does a very good job of gradually introducing new obstacles and challenges before ratcheting up the difficulty. Also, the game cleverly uses its primary collectable, gems, as a sort of "guide" for players to time their jumps. In its simplest form, this could mean that there is an arc of gems between two platforms that draws the ideal trajectory for the jump, while later implementations of this technique can reveal hidden paths or give players a much-needed warning about a sudden obstacle presenting itself.
At its core, Rock Runners is simply about level completion, but there are many other goals built in to the game to add replay value and challenge. Each level in Rock Runners has three additional goals built into it, with most of them concerning completion time, gem collection proficiency, and the ability to avoid damaging obstacles. Performing these tasks may be difficult, especially on a first run, but they all help players focus on getting better at the game and provide rewards for execution.
The most explicit reward for completing goals comes at the end of a stage, when players earn bonus gems which they can later spend in the in game store for power-ups, collectables, or additional characters, but that all lies outside the immediate playing of the game. Luckily though, Rock Runners also provides in-game immediate rewards for flawless execution. As players collect gems, a boost meter at the top of the screen fills. When full, a speed boost is activated, some upbeat triumphant music begins to play, and endorphins in your brain rejoice as you smoothly glide through to the stage to the finish line.
The boost mechanic is what makes Rock Runners feel truly special. Performing a perfect run on a level, all while boosting, feels so smooth and rewarding that you just want to do it again on the next stage. Although there are some issues with in-game hitching (that, and the pause menu could use a count-down timer on resume), there is very little negative to say about Rock Runners. It's just a great game. Go get it!