Indie and mobile games go through various genres of the moment over time, sort of like how console and big-budget PC games have been stuck on First-Person Shooters for the last ten years or so. For the longest time, it seemed like every new small-scale release that came along was a tower defense game. Hardly anybody complained, due to the inherent joy of defending towers.
The new genre of the moment on mobile is definitely the endless running game. A slew of endless runners have recently flooded Windows Phone 8, including such high profile releases as Subway Surfers and Despicable Me: Minion Rush. Only one endless runner with 3D graphics sports Xbox Live features, though: Temple Run 2 from Imangi Studios (makers of Harbor Master). Does the only non-spin-off sequel to Temple Run stand tall above its competitors? Read on to find out.
Danger up high
The original Temple Run took place in a fictional South American-esque temple setting in which the player’s heroic adventurer desperately tried to outrun a horde of demonic monkeys. The sequel moves things to a more fanciful (and interesting) lost city above the clouds. This time, the adventurer must evade a single gigantic gorilla. And because the endless running genre demands it, the hero will always fail sooner or later.
Temple Run 2’s controls take very little time to learn. Dragging left and right steers your character around the track, allowing him or her to pick up coins and avoid hazards. Hard swipes left or right will safely get you through ninety degree turns.
Swipe down to slide under obstacles, or swipe up to jump over pits and the like. Not everything will kill you in this game, but slowing down proves almost as dangerous. That King Kong-wannabe is never too far behind.
Mine carts and waterslides, oh my
The change in environment has thrown some new wrinkles into Temple Run 2’s gameplay. Each run starts out with a zip-line that players must cling to in order to slide across a massive gap. Weaving left or right to grab up coins is always a fun diversion.
Other times, you’ll run into a gigantic waterslide. Splashing through one of these sections feels quite similar to the halfpipe bonus stages from the Sonic the hedgehog series, especially since you’re grabbing coins much of the time. You’ll also have to duck under obstacles and choose a direction at sudden forks in the slide, keeping you on your toes.
Mine cart areas fit perfectly with the series’ Indiana Jones-inspired theme. Cart riders will need to avoid fire and choose wisely at intersections as well. Take the wrong path and you’ll smack into a wall, ending your run. Thin parts of the track require the rider to learn in a safe direction - otherwise he or she will plummet into the abyss below.
Powers and power-ups
Even though the odds are stacked against players in this or any endless runner, a few items and abilities can stave off defeat at least temporarily. As you progress through a run, your special move meter will eventually fill up. Once it fills, double tap the screen to activate it and become invincible for a short time. You’ll run over gaps, make perfect turns, and everything. The game doesn’t actually teach us how to activate the special move, unless I missed it somewhere.
Players can also grab floating power-ups every now and again. Grab a coin magnet and unleash your special ability to turn into a coin-stealing machine. Strangely, you can’t just buy and unlock all of Temple Run 2’s power-ups like in other running games. Instead, several items can only be unlocked by purchasing characters. The game barely has any power-ups to begin with, and the character-based unlocks only make it worse.
Temple Run 2 offers several characters for players to purchase. Most cost coins, the game’s soft currency, but not all.
- Guy Dangerous: Generic explorer guy
- Scarlett Fox: A generic female explorer created for this sequel. Her voice samples are the worst I’ve heard in recent memory.
- Barry Bones: A black police officer
- Karma Lee: An Asian lady who doesn’t look very Asian an dresses really strangely
- Francisco Montoya: A Spanish conquistador
- Zack Wonder: A generic American football player
- Montana Smith: Returning character who resembles Indiana Jones
- Santa Claus: The Miracle from 34th Street costs 60 gems (approximately $7 worth of hard currency)
- Usain Bolt: A real-life Jamaican track star. He costs 99 cents in-game - cheap compared to Santa.
As with the first game, players can spend coins to upgrade their characters’ abilities. Upgrades include boosting coin value, increasing coin magnet duration, increasing score multiplier, and more. These ability upgrades are shared across all characters.
Players can opt to buy a permanent coin doubler for $4.99. Even then, you’ll need to play for quite a while (probably 10+ hours) before you can afford all of the upgrades and characters.
Missions and Leveling
The leveling system here works much like Jetpack Joyride’s. At any given time, you have three side missions to work on. Complete enough of them and you’ll level up. On top of those, the game also presents daily and weekly challenges to keep players coming back. Knock out enough of those and you’ll earn tons of coins or gems.
The missions and leveling structure are welcome, but they feel rudimentary compared to other games. Jetpack Joyride’s missions are much more diverse and quick to complete. The carrot at the end of the stick here is less appetizing and comes on an overly long string.
Pretty as you want
Left: Medium Detail. Right: High Detail
Unlike most Windows Phone games, Temple Run 2 offers graphical settings that allow users to tailor performance to their devices. On medium, the game runs perfectly smoothly on the Lumia 920. The high settings increase the character model’s detail and adds shadows, but the frame rate drops on the 920. I’m sure the more powerful Lumia 1520 could handle High without breaking a sweat, so it’s cool that the game can take advantage of it.
Run from the bugs
Temple Run 2 arrives on Windows Phone 8 with all of the same content as the iOS and Android versions, even the stuff those platforms received in a December update. Xbox games usually lag behind other platforms when they first arrive (if not forever), so it’s great to see this game keeping pace with sister versions.
That said, the Windows Phone game suffers from two nasty bugs. The first (which affects everybody) causes the game to falsely register presses of the Share button. So whenever you finish a run or move through various menus, you’ll end up at the Windows Phone Rate and Review screen. A minor relatively annoyance, but one that inspires many of us to leave negative reviews.
The far more serious bug only affects some users. These players will find the game fails to save their progress, basically making it impossible to amass coins or level up very much. For those people, Temple Run 2 won’t be much fun to play.
Finally, the friends leaderboards don't work too well. Some users have noticed they fail to update at all. My problem is the names and scores appear in a completely random order. Wouldn't it make more sense to list users by score or alphabetically?
Nearly all of Temple Run 2’s Achievements involve completing side missions, nicely integrating them into the game’s existing structure. The odd thing is you can’t get a mission’s Achievement until that mission comes up, even if you complete the exact requirements beforehand. Still, it should only take around six hours to progress far enough to knock out all of the Achievements.
It took almost a year for Temple Run 2 to make its way to Windows Phone 8. Even after all that time (and despite the graphical detail options), it still requires handsets with at least 1 GB of RAM. The memory limitation comes from Unity, the engine that makes Temple Run 2 tick. Unity’s Windows Phone support still lags behind other platforms, which also helps explain in part why the game took so long to arrive at all.
After all that time, Temple Run 2 has arguably been surpassed by other endless runners like Subway Surfers and especially Jetpack Joyride. Imangi would do well to staff up a little bit in order to compete with the scope that larger studios bring to their genre entries.
Still, Temple Run 2 is plenty of fun in short doses and should keep players interested at least until the last Achievement pops. The In-App Purchase structure is fair as well, so players won’t feel too pressured to spend. You can’t truly win at this game, but you’ll probably enjoy trying.
- Temple Run 2 – Windows Phone 8 (minimum 1 GB of RAM required) – MB – Free – Store Link