App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Summer Catchers demonstrates that there’s still untapped potential for auto-runner games. Instead of making a game about endless tests of reflexes or upgrade treadmills, FaceIT really flips the script by adding deck-building and collectible elements to their game about trying to drive your way to summer. While this makes for a conceptually fascinating experience, Summer Catchers struggles to prove that this new well of potential is worth exploring.
In Summer Catchers, you play as a young woman who is embarking on a journey to travel from her wintery, cold home to a land of sunshine and summer vibes. The mode of transportation for this adventure is a wooden car, which seems mostly ill-equipped to make it too terribly far before breaking down.
Luckily, there are lots of places to stop and fix up the car along the way. You just have to help characters gather their requisite MacGuffins before they can help you get to your next stop. Regardless of what these items are, you gather them by playing auto-runner stages where you need to jump, ram, and boost your way around various obstacles all along the way.
A curious aspect of Summer Catchers is that your car doesn’t always have the power to do the maneuvers you need to navigate the landscape successfully. If you want to ram through a totem pole, for example, you better hope you’ve packed a bumper. And if your journey involves ramming through multiple other objects, you best have enough bumpers packed to absorb each hit.
If you don’t have the right items in your vehicle, your run will end quickly, which will reset you back at your last stop. Here, you can repair your vehicle and choose how many of which item you want to take with you on your next venture. Depending on the objective you’re chasing, you may juggle different amounts and kinds of items, which gives Summer Catchers a quality akin to deck-building card games.
Just out of reach
I really love the idea of an action game having deck-building qualities, but Summer Catchers has a hard time doing much with this idea. Individual objectives on most levels are just collect-a-thons that are slight twists on the obstacle avoidance you’re otherwise doing the whole game. There are special items to discover and allies to unlock that grant new powers, but only one of these side objectives opts to deliver something significantly different from what you’re already doing. It’s just too bad that these “significantly different” things happen to be poorly conceived mini-games.
I would have been ok with this repetition in Summer Catchers if the game didn’t feel so padded out. I liked bouncing from area to area and checking items off a list up to a point, but that was about the mid-point of the game. Around this same time, the boss stages that crop up at the end of each area started to get significantly harder, to the point that your deck-building skills hardly feel like they matter. Luck seemed to determine the outcome of these levels more than anything else.
The bottom line
For all the issues I have with Summer Catchers, I do think it does a great job of making me want to keep playing it. Summer Catchers is a beautiful game and the neat concept makes it feel like there’s a phenomenal experience waiting for me just over the horizon. The only problem was chasing it felt like a trick. Summer Catchers runs out of ways to make its concept interesting well before it ends.