Mega Fun…Mega pun! Okay I’ll leave.
People often lament the fact that Nintendo won’t put any of their IP on the App Store. I mean, how great would it to play quick spurts of WarioWare on your iPhone, or hop online for MarioKart on the iPad!? Better yet, what kinds of experiences could a stellar team like the Big N’s cook up if only they were willing to go mobile? Well, thanks to games like Mega Run – Redford’s Aventure, I don’t much care. I’ve got all the polished, whimsical mobile gaming I need.
Styled as a successor to developer Get Set Games’ Mega Jump, Mega Run sees you causing horizontal mayhem instead (because let’s face it, vertical climbs are so early App Store). Over the course of 64 stages, it’s your mission to guide loveable monster (gremlin? gummy candy?) Redford through forests, beaches, volcanoes, and other barren terrain collecting coins, bounding across gaps, defeating enemies, and snagging precious gems – all for the glory of perfect “three-star” finishes.
So with a so-well-trod-it’s-flattened formula like this, what makes Mega Run worthy of the house that Mario built? Well for starters, it’s absolutely enchanting. And I don’t mean enchanting like “God I wish I could think of a synonym for pleasant.” This game will very much enchant you; grab you instantly in the same way a core Nintendo title does, and keep you happy the entire time you’re playing. Not just smiling, but genuinely happy.
A large part of that is owed of course to the visuals. And it’s more than just the fact that environments are vibrant, outlines are thick, and enemies wear goofy, buck-teethed smiles as you jump on their heads. Mega Run has a coveted stylistic je ne sais quoi that has eluded many of the App Store’s best offerings – a “juice” of sorts. Talked about in a lecture by developers Martin Jonasson and Petri Purho, juiciness in a game is the constant sense that “the game feels alive and responds to everything you do; [there is] tons of cascading action and response for minimal user input.”
In every level you play, Mega Run delivers that juiciness. From start to finish, you’re surrounded by sights and sounds that delight the synapses. Coins “bing,” gems and stars shine, launching pads “boing,” power ups deliver distinctive “bloops,” all in just the way you’d want them to. I say Mega Run is as good as a Nintendo offering, but in many respects it owes its existence to the kind of games on the SNES. The aesthetic joys here are part of the fabric of gaming nostalgia, just brighter and glossier. A much-welcomed new patch on a comforting quilt.
Where gameplay is concerned, you’ll be happy to know that Mega Run goes down like a big glass of juice here as well. Everything is controlled by a single tap, but Get Set’s design turns your touch into the tool you’ll need to master the game’s colorful chaos. I’d argue Jetpack Joyride set the bar for a universe where you do very little and feel like a pro. Mega Run rises to that challenge handily, in many cases offering more depth than Halfbrick’s iconic endless runner.
Each level is an intricately interwoven set of three pathways dotted with coins, enemies, spring pads, power-ups, enemies, and of course – gems. On one hand, there’s an extremely low barrier to entry, as everything’s set up to allow anyone with basic timing to tap their through the stage assured of some exciting leaps, mad dashes, and seemingly epic chain jumps. Look a little deeper, however, and you see a minefield of carefully laid out offramps, hideaways, and tools guiding you towards a fabled three-star, three jewel “mega run.”
Getting there is as much a game of quick thinking as it is trial and error, depending on a sense of anticipation of what’s to come, and reflection on chances you missed. Do you take the spring pad to the third level to snag a bunch of high value coins? Or will ignoring the opportunity keep you running right towards the gem you needed? The need to make this decision at all is what sets Mega Run apart from a lot of bite-sized platformers.
And while it may seem frustrating to go back looking for your third star, or a complete set of gems, the game does a great job of using those tactics to add value instead of artificial longevity. On one hand, the amount of stars needed to get to the next world is often manageable enough not to have to stress about more than a couple repeated runs.
Meanwhile, procedural ordering of each stage’s three major sections (containing one gem each) means that double dips won’t leave score hounds feeling bored to tears. Quite the contrary, the game puts stock in your intelligence as a gamer able to master the patterns it’s crafted, regardless of their order. Once again, classic Nintendo emerges in the retro joys and frustrations of nailing the perfect combo.
Perhaps the only real frustration of Mega Run lies in the game’s somewhat frequent crashes, which left me less than enchanted as I scrolled through the game’s menus all over again. Menus which, oddly enough, are perhaps the only non-juicy things about the game, with commands awkwardly labelled, making navigation a sticking point.
But hey. Even Donkey Kong had its kill screen.