Somewhere in a far flung dystopian future — where machines have taken over everything — there exists a resistance movement of robot factory workers gearing up for a revolt, but first they need to escape. Thus goes the set up to Riot Runners (out now, $0.99), an extremely stylish endless runner — with a well designed, yet simple, control scheme — from the developers over at Room 8 Games. Unfortunately this is also a game where the mobile market’s ever looming specter of IAPs has moved in and taken up residency in some admittedly less than desirable methods.
When the game begins your robot will be rocketing forward through the ruined wreckage of the future, doing everything it can to stay one step ahead of the factory’s taskmasters: the dreaded mechanical overlords. These hulking behemoths are not to be trifled with, and so the only means for your revolutionary robot to keep ahead of a mechanical demise is to put the pedal to the metal and blast off at full tilt. The downside to moving at such speeds is that the slightest of collisions will cause their escape to come to a grinding halt, after which the overlord will catch up and brutally dispose of them.
Anyways — as I previously stated — the controls for Riot Runners have been kept elegantly simple: all one needs to do is tap the screen once to jump, or twice in order for their escapee to perform a double-leap. Using this singular command you will have to avoid a variety of obstacles and traps, all while trying to collect the valuable coins that the robotic revolution needs to continue funding their just cause. There are also helpful power ups and contraptions — such as teleport pods and gravitational streams — that players can avail themselves of along the way, assuming they manage to reach them.
One particularly nice feature of Riot Runners is that — should you manage to successfully snag a power-up — the game will immediately de-spawn every trap and obstacle on screen, ensuring that the randomly generated levels never deathtrap a collectible. While things are probably looking up for the robot revolution so far, it is unfortunately now time to discuss where that aforementioned IAP menace fits into the over all picture. The chief problem in Riot Runners occurs on two separate fronts: the fact that money collected in the game can only be used to purchase things your over all level has first unlocked, and the fact that upgrade prices quickly skyrocket as well.
As with many other endless runners on the iTunes Marketplace, your level in Riot Runners is increased by successfully completing the various challenges assigned to the player. At first these missions will be of a standard flavor for the genre, asking players to do things such as pick up x-many coins or collecting a certain number of power-ups within a single run. However, they will all too quickly change to requests of a more malevolent bent where the player must essentially purchase IAP currency — or give up all of their IAP currency they had earned so far — just to keep progressing forward.
One of these includes a quest where the game asks you to use the revive option three times during a single run, which would cost the player a grand total of six whole gears to perform (keep in mind that the player earns only a single gear upon each level up). If this quest isn’t properly finished, it will just sit there — preventing other quests from taking its place — so as to eternally slow down the progress of players that don’t waste their gears. Even more positively vile is a quest that requires the player to post advertisements for the game on their Facebook page, unless they want to break down and use gears to force close the quest early.
If — however — a person does slog through everything, they’re going to quickly find that it will take them forever and a half to purchase whatever new feature that they finally unlocked (unless they then purchase large quantities of the in-game currency). Especially since many of the quests that don’t require you to expend IAPs, will instead force you to spend lots of in-game currency instead (and then pay you back far less than what you had to pay out in order to progress forward). Factor in on top of this the fact that your average session in Riot Runners will only net you a few hundred coins, or less, and you quickly have a game that is designed to harass you forwards and backwards.
While the experience’s scenery and artwork are quite stylish, it’s of little consequence to the fact that Riot Runners will aggressively try to coerce you out of your money — to advertise them on your Facebook page — and to generally stymie all hopes of having fun. This is a true pity as the game’s simple controls are a joy to use, and — up until the point where the game turns on you — Riot Runners will consistently leave you with the desire to play ‘just one more round’. As it stands, however, there are simply far too many endless runners out there that are just as good — both free, and paid for up front — for someone to willingly want to subject themselves to the levels of coercion found within.
iFanzine Verdict: It’s a real pity that Riot Runners had to run hog wild with the coercive uses of IAPs, as the game is otherwise a very stylish looking — and extremely addictive — endless runner featuring elegant controls. It certainly isn’t a good sign when most free-to-play endless runner titles are actually far less aggressively seeking money than a game that comes with an up-front purchase price tag. Riot Runners furthermore has the profoundly ignoble distinction of being the first game in the genre to block your forward progress if you don’t want to advertise them on Facebook, unless — of course — you’re willing to buy from them the rights to not shill their game.