CodeRunner is a highly original title, but you’ll need a comfy pair of sneakers to play

When thinking of GPS-oriented games, there isn’t a whole lot that comes to mind. At most there’s Foursquare, but despite its being enjoyable, it isn’t really a game. A new iOS app by the name of CodeRunner is attempting to fill this void with a highly creative title that utilizes base iPhone functionality in a highly unique fashion. Making use of the environment around the player, this quasi-augmented reality application plants users into the world of governmental espionage. Still, despite its quality, it may not appeal to all players from a strictly convenience perspective.

In the world of CodeRunner, the government securely protects everyone’s privacy online. Hackers, identity theft, computer assaults: They have all be phased out and dealt with. But now players have been recruited to do just that as they uncover the dirty secrets of big profile names. Contacted by an anonymous source, CodeRunner picks up one’s GPS location and presents it to users in this very cool, spy satellite style. This is where the fun begins.

Prompted to plug in headphones, players begin receiving transmissions from an unknown voice that notifies them of their unsecure location, tasking them to begin walking out of range of that starting local. Yes, CodeRunner is a title that’s going to try and get players moving. Once users are about 20 meters away from the starting source, directions will continue on what’s going on and why they’ve been selected. It’s actually all very, very well presented and feels like something out of a movie, with well-timed lines like “look casual,” “don’t look at your phone,” or “if you have to look at your phone, pretend to send a text message.” It’s all very James Bond’esque.

Once on the move, players are granted missions that they can accept which consist of moving within range of a location randomly placed on the map. Players are giving a dossier on their target and a quick briefing before accepting. Assuming they take the task, they’ll be able to remotely hack into and download something of importance once they’ve approached the target locale.

This is where the first set of mini-games comes into play. In order to hack into whatever system the mysterious voice has presented, users must figure out a password. To do so, the voice sends some sort of camera shot from “nearby security cameras” which turn into a moderate hidden object game. However in this mini-game, the only hidden object is a piece of paper with a potential password on it.

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Once the solution is found, information can be downloaded from the source. In our first case, this consisted of some saucy text messages and photos from an escort accompanying a high profile politician whose phone had been stolen. Seeking to expose the corruption, players must then find “drop points” around the real world (done by doing a sort of sonar sweep of the area on the map) in which to upload the evidence. These consist of things like cameras, ATMs, computer systems, or anything else that another CodeRunner player has tagged as a drop point.

This is the next really interesting aspect about the game, as these other players can turn anything into a drop point (as it just registers the GPS location). All one has to do is move to a desirable spot and take a photo. From here, they create their own puzzles by inputting a password and leaving a message that hints as to what it might be. Other users that try to access this drop point will then have to decipher that message and figure out what the password could be (rating the drop point quality after they are done). Obviously this mechanic is highly dependent on how many CodeRunner players are in a region, but the concept is certainly nice.

The only real downside to the app is that the game can only really be played when walking somewhere. Also, since the locations for targets are randomly generated, it often requires back tracking (even though you can refresh them to get a new locale). It can leave users walking back and forth in circles, which feels a bit foolish. It’s also particularly curious when a location appears in the middle of a forest, someone’s backyard, or a lake; especially when the voice says “look for someone ducking into a car or something.” Other than that, the constant GPS updates absolutely obliterate a phone’s battery life, even on the newest generation handsets.

Suffice to say, the context of what’s going on doesn’t always fit with what someone is actually doing, and works better in a crowded city. Nevertheless, for what it’s worth, CodeRunner is still wonderfully presented and is not too bad a companion game when out running errands or walking the dog. Because of that context though, it’s likely to be underplayed quite a bit. Still, if people are looking for something new and creative, then this is certainly the game to try out.