Endless runner and survival games
Think you’re made of strong stuff? Check out these games, where death can come in the blink of an eye.
ALONE… has you zip along a procedurally generated landscape at ever-increasing speed, trying your best to avoid the obstacles in your path and using the bare minimum of controls (just up and down) to preserve your little spaceship.
It’s an incredibly simple, stripped-back game, but this style of game lives and dies by its speed; or rather by the sensation of speed that it’s able to produce. And ALONE… is brilliant at this. The hectic soundtrack, the speed lines and space detritus flying past you, the barely controllable boost you get whenever you’re winged by a small piece of debris, and the gradual acceleration as the game progresses - all of this contributes to a tightly focused thrill-ride of a game.
This isn’t to say the creators have ignored the game’s cosmetics: there’s some great mysterious background imagery (reminiscent of Canabalt) and the shifting colour schemes are undeniably lovely. You just might not get much of a chance to appreciate them.
£1.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download ALONE…
In iOS gaming’s early days, Canabalt stripped platform gaming right back. The leaping protagonist flung himself into the air whenever you prodded the screen, the aim being to survive for as long as possible before he inevitably plummeted to his doom. Alto’s Odyssey showcases how such simple mechanics can be used to create a surprisingly complex, deep experience – even though your interaction remains limited to using a single digit.
The game features Alto (and – when unlocked – friends) exploring a vast desert. Setting off on his surfboard, Alto scoots across gigantic dunes, regularly soaring into the air to perform fancy tricks that provide a handy speed boost when completed.
This isn’t a game for the impatient. Alto’s Odyssey slowly but surely reveals its hand, as you discover new environments, hazards and moves, such as bouncing on balloons and wall-riding cliffs. The achievements system can at times be a bit frustrating – some requirements are very specific and tricky to pull off. But mostly, this is a meditative, hypnotic game – not least when you fire up the zero-risk Zen mode and let your eyes take in the gorgeous day/night cycle while your ears are serenaded by serene audio. Craig Grannell
So you thought that when strange new particles were discovered, this involved serious-looking scientists, laboratories, and quite a lot of insanely powerful microscopes? Nope. At least, not as Boson X would have it. Here, such discoveries are made by researchers legging it inside massive particle accelerators, scooping up globs of energy in order to power their research.
This might not be *entirely* technically accurate, but then we’re pretty sure Boson X isn’t aiming for simulation territory. Instead, this is a tense, fast-paced 3D endless runner, which mixes up Canabalt’s vertigo-inducing leaping and speed, Fotonica’s into-the-screen viewpoint, and Super Hexagon’s stomach-churning spinny madness.
Unlike Super Hexagon, though, Boson X’s protagonist always remains front and centre. Instead, it’s the entire accelerator that rotates as you hold left or right to leap gracefully through the air. End up in a hole and the poor researcher falls into the abyss, presumably lost forever in their own experiment. Hit 100 per cent and they blaze forwards at double speed, in a frantic dash for high-score greatness.
It’s an exhilarating experience – and one with plenty of variation. Each accelerator has its own theme and character, which as you progress tend, respectively, towards ‘mind-bending’ and ‘psychotic’. Still, anything for science!
£2.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Boson X
This endless runner kickstarted the entire genre on mobile. And at a glance, it today might seem wanting - overly simple, and lacking in depth. But that misses the point, because Canabalt was only really ever about one thing: speed.
Your little runner leaps through a window before belting along rooftops, making impossible jumps into the air while some kind of horrible armageddon plays out in the background. Occasionally, machinery drops from the sky, which must be leapt over. As ever, mistime a single leap and the runner falls to their doom.
Before long, you’re sucked in. The leapy gameplay might be simpler than what you find in Canabalt’s contemporaries, but the breakneck pace and sense of exhilaration when you’re going at top speed remains intoxicating. Craig Grannell
This one is simplicity itself. The eponymous Super Hexagon is always at the centre of the screen, and other geometric wireframe shapes are constantly being sucked into it. You play a tiny arrow on the edge of the hexagon, and it’s your role to rotate around the centre to ensure that you’re never crushed by the incoming shapes.
It sounds easy, and perhaps a little thin when you realise you only need to stay alive for a single minute to unlock extra levels. But this is misleading - the twitchy gameplay is so difficult that staying alive for even a handful of seconds becomes your own personal Everest.
You’ll simultaneously love and hate the game, but it’s brilliant: streamlined, simple and fiendishly moreish. Alan Martin
In this side-scrolling game, you hold the screen and a little bird furls her stunted wings and speeds downwards at a rapid lick. Raise your finger, and she flaps them and soars briefly – if she’s gained sufficient momentum to rocket off of the hill she’s just slid up. All the while, you’re racing against the sun (when it sets your bird goes to sleep and the game is over).
The basic gameplay mechanics are simple but exquisitely crafted, and the game is an aesthetic delight, from the crayony backdrops to the charming music and effects. Alongside this endless mode, the game provides some extra goodies, too – two-player same-device multiplayer, and a race game of sorts, featuring the bird’s chicks, desperate to get back to mum to snag the biggest worm.
In all, this is a wonderful, charming, inventive, simple, beautiful, fun game. David Price