Russian developer MaxNick really impressed us with its Xbox Windows Phone release of Spider Jack. For a year, it was the closest thing on our platform to Cut the Rope, and remains a quality game. MaxNick has also released a handful of indie titles such as Doodle Invasion, a quirky little game about evil aliens attacking the Earth. Now the developer returns to Xbox Live with Turn N Run, which stars a nicer alien this time. The Windows Phone port arrives only a couple of months after the iOS original – a breath of fresh air after having to wait so long for Sonic CD to show up!
Both of the previous games I enjoyed from MaxNick featured charming 2D art. Does the transition to 3D graphics and a new gameplay style result in another quirky hit? Read on to find out.
Turn N Run starts out with a nice little intro sequence told through comic book-style panels. Our nameless alien protagonist is flying along in his spaceship when something goes wrong. The (presumably dilithium) crystal that powers his ship shatters, forcing him to make an emergency landing. Thus he begins a quest to collect enough crystal shards from nearby alien worlds to continue his journey.
Sadly, there is no actual ending. That seems common with downloadable games that are likely to receive continued level updates in the future. But endings provide a sense of accomplishment upon completing a game beyond just an Achievement popping.
Turn N Run is divided up into three worlds containing 20 levels each. To unlock the next world, you’ll need to collect sufficient crystals in the previous one. Each level has 3-5 crystals for players to collect. They basically work like stars in Spider Jack; you don’t need them to finish, but skip too many and you won’t be able to move on (or get the final Achievement). In total, the game should take between 3 and 4 hours to complete.
Turn and burn
The game combines two- and three-dimensional perspectives in an interesting way. You play from a side view, 2D perspective. Players don’t move the character with a virtual stick. Instead, tapping a block moves the protagonist to that location. He can climb up one diagonal space, but can’t actually jump in a traditional sense. So how do you get him across haps and to the rocket ship that exits each level?
That’s where the turning comes in. See, despite the normal 2D view, each level is composed of blocks within a 3D space. By swiping to the left or right, the perspective rotates 90 degrees, revealing new paths for the hero to take. It works like XBLA hit Fez, but on a much simpler scale.
Players can also swipe up or down to get a better view of the entire surroundings, but I find the vertical view controls far too rigid. It can be tough to get the camera to cooperate, and it snaps back the instant you release your finger anyway.
Leap of faith
One interesting aspect to the rotational gameplay happens when you make a horizontal rotation that leaves the hero on a block at the back while there is another block in front of him (towards the player), with no other blocks between the rear and forward position… If that makes sense.
Well, when this happens, the little guy leaps across the gap, switching to the block at the front instead of the one at rear. You’ll need to use this technique to solve puzzles, so you’d best get your head around it. I do have to wonder why the hero can make those large leaps but he can’t just jump the same distance from left to right or vice versa.
On top of finding the correct pathway to the exit and grabbing all the shiny crystals, the challenge increases as new obstacles and features pop up. These include color-coded 2-way teleporters, moving blocks, and barriers that can only be crossed from certain directions. It takes a little planning and coordination to get around with these things, but they usually didn’t stump me too badly. Still, the teleporters and moving blocks got on my nerves at times.
Your character can’t die in Turn N Run; there are no enemies and he’ll refuse to make unsafe jumps. It might be possible to get stuck in a few instances, though I kind of doubt it. Even then, you can always pause and choose to retry. But some players might find a few of the levels too tough for them, in which case the game offers an optional Super Guide as PDLC. For 80 Microsoft Points ($1), you’ll permanently unlock the guide. It can only be used once per hour, and it reveals the best path to clearing a level. Most serious gamers won’t really need the help, but it’s a nice option for casual gamers.
Graphics and sound
Separated at birth?
First, let me say that even though Turn N Run only has a single tune, it’s innocuous enough that I never tired of it during the game. Can’t say that about every mobile title! The protagonist also makes a few squeaks now and then that sound much like Spider Jack’s voice.
Graphically, however Turn N Run doesn’t really impress. Everything looks far too simplistic, with very little detail in the backgrounds. All three planets look just about identical, whereas they should be dramatically different. Rather than sparse 3D backdrops, the game would benefit from some strong painted backgrounds. Also, the menu icons and ‘Level progress will be lost. Are you sure?’ dialogue that appears when you quit or retry are unattractive and don’t fit the game well.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the hero (who really needs a name) looks awfully similar to Dr. Cockroach from the movie Monsters vs. Aliens. A little more differentiation wouldn’t hurt.
On the bright side, Turn N Run’s Achievements are nice and easy. You’ll get several for things you have to do anyway like jumping and swiping. There are also Achievements for completing each of the three planets. Unfortunately, while the descriptions simply read ‘Complete X Planet,’ they really mean you need to complete all of the planet’s levels and collect every crystal too. Still, collecting every crystal in the game shouldn’t be too hard for most gamers. Arsenic17’s Achievement Guide has a few tips as well.
Turn N Run is a nice little puzzle game that plays differently from just about everything else. The lack of pressure is a welcome change compared to most games, though some players might get bored as a result. Higher production values would balance that out, much as they do in ilomilo and Mush. Still, the game’s low cost makes its rough looks more forgivable. Casual players will enjoy it the most, but Achievement hunters should appreciate the short completion time. Just about every 99 cent Xbox Windows Phone game is worth a purchase, and that goes for Turn N Run too.
You’ll be able to find Turn N Run here on the Windows Phone Store… When it returns from getting delisted. Yes, the game just got pulled yesterday due to its lack of Windows Phone 8 compatibility. MaxNick is already working hard on a compatibility update, so it should be back soon.