Some people would claim that once you’ve seen one endless running game, that – owing in part to the extreme amount of repetition occurring within the genre – you’ve probably seen all of them. Jon McKellan of Futuro sought to prove that there was still room for heartfelt innovation in the genre when he created Lub Vs Dub (out now, $0.99), an expanded edition of a title originally created during a 48 hour game jam. I can almost certainly say that – if nothing else – he succeeded in this goal, for when was the last time you saw a game featuring a simultaneous two player versus mode that only needed one iDevice?
The controls to Lub Vs Dub are probably some of the simplest to ever grace an endless runner, even if successfully playing this game is actually quite far from being a trivial feat. At the bottom the screen the player has two buttons – plainly marked ‘jump’ and ‘flip’ – that provide nearly the entirety of the title’s inputs, with a third button appearing whenever an activatable power-up is held. I repeat, while this input scheme sounds simple – and would be in virtually any other endless runner experience – in Lub Vs Dub this setup quickly yields a challenge of maddeningly diabolical proportions.
Your hero finds himself running down a single line, of which I can only assume is an Electrocardiogram, with the objective of collecting as many hearts as possible before he dies. While the function of the ‘jump’ command – which allows the protagonist to hop over smaller spikes – is fairly self explanatory, it’s the ‘flip’ button that really complicates everything in Lub Vs Dub. The larger ECG spikes that come down the line will either be pointing up or down, and these – utilizing the ‘flip’ input – are successfully evaded by being on the on the opposite side when they pass by.
While you’re probably still thinking this doesn’t actually sound that complicated, I can personally assure that this simple setup is enough to – dare I say it – quickly induce a heart attack. For some reason your mind is going to have a catastrophic failure coming to terms with your two inputs, and thus you will often find yourself flipping when you should have jumped – and vice versa – with great regularity. Learning to train your mind to master the ebb and flow of the ECG – so as to maximize your high score – is truly an epic feat in Lub Vs Dub, especially since the lack of IAPs means this is a purely skill only affair.
But if this was all that Futuro’s offering had – a mix of spike dodging and heart collecting – then it wouldn’t exactly be all that noteworthy, but Jon McKellan was not content to simply stop there. Instead he ventured forth and added an insanely chaotic two-player versus mode, wherein both people simultaneously compete against each other using nothing but a single iDevice. This feature, which has the buttons for each player on opposite ends of the screen, admittedly probably works far better for those on an iPad than it did with my 4th Gen iPod Touch.
Rather than being tasked to see how many hearts someone can collect before they die, in competitive mode it is a race to see which player can collect a grand total of fifty hearts first. Of course it’s not actually as simple as merely snagging every single heart icon that goes by, for only hearts that are the same color as a player’s controlled hero increases their current cache value. Picking up the wrong heart – or running into any spikes – will decrease a player’s current supply by various amounts, making for one truly maddening multiplayer battle when you consider that both players are running on the same line.
Yet it doesn’t end there, for diabolical power-ups – which are exclusive to this mode – will show up that let you do things such as temporarily reverse and/or lockup your opponent’s controls. As if having the players simultaneously try their hardest to screw with each other was not enough when competing at such a hard game, in versus mode the very playing field itself will get in on the heart pounding action. At random moments in Lub Vs Dub’s competitive mode things such as the entire playing field spinning – or suddenly flooding with water, allowing the jump button to perform Super Mario Bros style swimming – will suddenly go down without warning.
So while Lub Vs Dub’s ultra hard single-player experience might not be the most compelling, it’s maddeningly heart-attack inducing two player mode – assuming you can find a suitably skilled combatant to go up against – is a necessary administration of CPR to an otherwise stagnant genre.
iFanzine Verdict: Jon McKellan’s recently released Lub Vs Dub is a uniquely challenging endless runner game that certainly contains a heaping helping of heart, both in the literal and figurative senses. Its simple, yet highly accurate, control scheme belies the fact that Lub Vs Dub is quite possibly the most heart-attack inducing endless runner ever released for the iTunes marketplace. While the single player mode itself might bore many – especially when the genre has many far more impressive free offerings – it’s the game’s single unit simultaneous competitive mode that truly makes this a title worth checking out, enabling heartfelt chaotic combat like never before.