Relic Rush is an enjoyable, if flawed, one-button platformer for your iPhone

One-button games are totally my cup of tea, as are pixelated visuals. I’m also rather prone to enjoying games that are constantly trying to kill me. With this in mind, Relic Rush should be right up my alley – I mean, just look at it! It’s a thing of beauty!

And yet there’s something just not fully spot-on about this Indiana Jones-like adventure. There’s no doubt that it’s enjoyable enough, with progressively challenging levels and idols to collect… but there’s never really a huge sense of excitement that pours through the experience. It’s just sort of pretty good, but not as spectacular as I was hoping.

Our hero wants those gleaming idols so much, that he’s willing to sprint through any dangers that come his way. In fact, you’re the only guiding light in his path, telling him when to take a breather, and then when to set off on his journey again.

This is all done through a one-touch system. Touch the screen, and our protagonist will stop dead on the spot. Let go, and he’ll start running again. But while holding and letting go of the screen, you need to guide him under and over obstacles without getting hit – a single hit causes him to restart the level.

The collision detection in Relic Rush is perfect. That might sound like a strange thing to pick up as my first pro point, but seriously, this is something that so many platformers get wrong. Relic Rush is very lenient with how close you can get to an enemy before it pops your clogs, so when you do die, you know for sure that it was completely down to you.

Attempting to collect all the diamond idols is good fun too. The type of idol you collect at the end of a run of eight levels depends on how quick you were, and how many times you died. A timer bar at the top of the screen keeps the tension mounting, and makes you want to constantly push ahead.

And push ahead I did. I played through most of Relic Rush in one sitting, as it’s the sort of game that warrants that “just one more go” feeling. There’s definitely something here that tugs at your gaming thumbs, and makes you want to plod onwards with the hero’s adventure.

 Relic Rush     Relic Rush

But for all of Relic Rush‘s whimsy, it stumbles consistently. Take the aforementioned progress bar, for example, that keeps track of how much time you have left. The bar provides no real information, and on different stages, will turn silver and then bronze at completely different intervals, rendering it mostly irrelevant (apart from the previously mentioned tension building).

Elsewhere, there are some questionable choices. There’s no Game Center support, for example, which means that the scores I’m bagging mean absolutely nothing, and the idols I’m collecting feel like a bit of a hollow victory compared to other iOS games.

Meanwhile, the music is hugely grating, which I didn’t expect to be saying. I usually love a chiptune-styled soundtrack, but Relic Rush‘s music just sounds like someone playing around with the top end of a midi keyboard.

But what really stops Relic Rush from being the glorious experience that it could be is the gameplay itself. The difficulty ramps up so very slowly, that for the first half an hour it feels like you’re just tackling the same enemies and situations over and over again.

Relic Rush     Relic Rush

Plus, each level is set to the same specific size, which means that on those levels which don’t really use the entire space fully, there are sections where the hero will simply run along a platform for five seconds with no input from yourself needed at all. It feels like a huge waste of space.

It says something about Relic Rush‘s core concept and presentation that I still find myself calling it a great game, despite this barrage of issues. It’s a flawed experience, no doubt about that, but it shows huge potential, and it’s worth checking it out just so that you can think to yourself “I hope they get it right with a sequel.”