Temple Run: Oz
Temple Run looks set to become Disney’s go to game template for whatever movie franchise they have to promote during that particular fiscal quarter. After TR:Brave we have Sam Raimi’s Oz taking up the reins of the long established endless runner. It’s not a bad idea, as it’s a solid and proven framework to hang your film licence on, and it prevents lazy or time pressed devs from concocting some half thought out platformer. Temple Run has basically become an iconography delivery system.
In this version you’ll become intimately familiar with James Franco’s pert behind as his character, the young and future Wizard of Oz, runs through various locales that you’ll recognize when you go and see the film. Go and see the film. Twice. Temple Run commands you. The scenery whips past at an alarming speed and only gets faster as you get further. And what scenery it is! The colors are rich vibrant, really bringing the surreal landscapes of Oz to life. You’ll run across vertiginous precipices seemingly suspended miles above the lush verdant landscape, then it’ll be off to a remarkably detailed spooky forest with twisted tree roots lunging for you and ancient crypts tumbling in your path. Some of the backgrounds–the skyboxes–look a bit, well like something from the 1939 Wizard of Oz; painted backgrounds that serve to give the game an added sense of theatricality and artifice that is thematically befitting, even if wasn’t entirely intended. This visual fidelity is indicative of where to focus has been from the development side of things; without the worry of testing gameplay, the artists have been allowed to get the visual aspect just right; a reasonable trade-off.
Oz is based on Temple Run 2, and improves on that game with a clearer and more distinct pallet, something the muddy original got so wrong as to make certain elements indistinguishable from the surrounding level, a major design flaw in such a high speed reflex testing game. Replacing the mine cart segments are brief detours in to the clouds on Franco’s personal hot-air Balloon where emerald clusters must be avoided and coins (which allow you to upgrade your abilities) can be grabbed from the air. You’ll no doubt be familiar with intuitive swipe to jump, slide and turn gameplay, and if not, I recommend you download the free-to-play standard version to test the waters. The simple interaction is bolstered by a suite of power ups that become essential to compete on the leaderboards. These upgrades take the form of one off speed boosts or an incrementally improved attributes that give you the edge when aiming for that big score. The game has lost none of its ‘one more go’ appeal and remains an essential download for any mobile user, no matter what version you choose. Just don’t expect a radical reinvention of the formula.
The Temple Run games have always been better suited to the smaller screen, but Oz’s eye-catching graphics really work well when blown up, especially with the HD pack installed. While tablets are perfect for the more considered, thoughtful end of the gaming spectrum, the simple controls of this game won’t tax you too much.
If your device can handle it, the game offers an HD pack to download upon the initial launch. It’s certainly worth getting as the performance hit is negligible and the improvements make this thing look really sharp. Interestingly you also have to download extra levels on the fly – why they weren’t included in the original files is unclear. Once installed you’ll be able to go back and forth between the different levels when prompted by road signs. While there’s no tangible difference in play style, the change of locale keeps things fresh. There’s a greyed out option in one of the sub menus that indicates that there are more DLC packs to come. And this is how I see the franchise as a whole; a series of DLC packs. It’s easy to sound cynical about the constant iterations of Temple Run (as this review has proven) but each new variation really is just new content, giving a welcome new graphical overhaul. I actually look forward to what possible variations come next. A Tron Run is the first on my list, but we’ll no doubt be blessed with Enchanted Run or Lone Ranger Run next. Actually going back to Sam Raimi’s back catalog would yield some good ideas. Evil Dead Run seems like a perfect fit, with that movie’s ‘chase cam’ sequences practically being a blueprint for this whole genre of endless runners.
I’ll drop Sam a line and see if he can get started on it.