Worm Run has a lot of ideas that are as big as its antagonist, but the swipe-based controls bring the experience down.
Oh, so your job sucks? Poor you. Does a giant worm chase you down whenever you want to grab a cup of coffee or use the washroom? No? Then you’re already doing far better than Zeke, the hero of Worm Run for iOS. In his line of work, he runs a real risk of being eaten alive by a critter that looks like it’d be at home on Dune.
Worm Run is an endless runner with platforming elements. Whereas most endless runners go in one direction, Worm Run‘s action goes up, down, and in all directions. Zeke must run, jump, and fly through tight corridors that wind around themselves, and he needs to do it quickly and carefully—that big, fuzzy worm is rarely more than a few slithers behind him. Luckily, the worm follows the tunnels even though he’s obviously capable of chewing straight through them. Presumably, he likes to work up an appetite before lunch.
The controls in Worm Run are swipe-based. Zeke is equipped with a jetpack that boosts him down long corridors and lets him execute huge upwards leaps with the help of his wall-jumping ability. The jetpack’s fuel sputters out quickly, but is replenished instantly whenever Zeke lands. If you don’t time your movements carefully, Zeke’s pack will conk out and he’ll be worm’s meat in a second.
As you barrel through Worm Run, you’ll be introduced to new environments like the Space Ship and the Caves. Surviving long enough to see those strange new places is a real challenge, partially because Worm Run‘s swipe-based controls aren’t a perfect match for a platforming game—especially not a platforming game where death is literally nipping at your heels through the whole experience. Swiping is an imprecise gesture to begin with, but Worm Run demands precision. Vertical corridors are particularly troublesome: Many of them have crags sticking out of their sides, which bars you from performing a straight shot up to the next level. All too often you’ll find Zeke bumping his head on these crags while you frantically swipe upwards. Death quickly follows.
There are power-ups scattered throughout the corridors, including bombs that stun the worm for a couple of precious seconds, and spring boots that let you jump higher for a little while. These power-ups can be made more effective with the “golden rubies” that you collect as you rush through the game. You can also buy costumes. Upgrades and costumes both cost thousands of golden rubies, and collecting that much in-game takes ages. You can buy more gems via in-app purchasing.
Worm Run is literally a labor of love (the game was funded via a Kickstarter drive), a fact that’s reflected in the game’s interesting new ideas and cute presentation; as the worm draws nearer to Zeke, the ceiling drops bits of dust, a small touch that goes a long way to giving the game its own identity in a crowded genre. That said, all the charm in the world can’t make up for control issues, especially in a game where speed and precision are everything.