Running from shadows is no longer just for the dogs

Games release on the App Store all the time, and unfortunately not every single one merits a review. So what makes Shadow Escaper so special? Well, first and foremost, it was developed by CyberConnect2, the studio behind the .hack series, quite a few Naruto games, and the unbelievably crazy Asura’s Wrath. Secondly—and not unlike Asura’s Wrath—its premise is downright insane. That insanity doesn’t quite make up for all of the game’s flaws, but I’ll be darned if it doesn’t come close.

To be blunt, Shadow Escaper‘s gameplay isn’t what you’d call original. It bears a striking resemblance to Temple Run, in that it’s a 3D endless runner with a behind-the-back perspective and core mechanics that rarely deviate from jumping, ducking, and turning corners. But it’s in the visual style and storyline that the game truly comes into its own. You play as a “Night dweller,” which is described in the game as a fugitive who’s trying to escape the approaching Angel Army. When it’s daytime, you run away as fast you can; when night falls, you unleash a flurry of energy and wreak havoc on the angels pursuing you. You can get a pretty good sense of how that works in the game’s trailer:

While there’s a lot to love about Shadow Escaper‘s absurd style, it falls a bit flat in terms of controls. Tilting the iDevice to move left and right works well enough, but I had a lot of trouble with the game detecting my swipes when I tried to make a hard turn left or right. This problem also cropped up when I swiped to jump and duck, albeit less frequently. While I wouldn’t say this is a deal-breaker, it’s a pretty major problem given the lack of room for errors. Like most endless runners, a single slip-up will put you right back at the beginning.

The nighttime sequences, as you get a taste of in the trailer above, are essentially quick time events (QTEs). Rather than engage in an actual battle, you simply tap the screen in the designated areas. It works as advertised, but it’s a little underwhelming in its execution.

Shadow Escaper     Shadow Escaper

These problems only intensify in the game’s Survival Mode, which features more obstacles and enemies for players to avoid. This is also where the game’s most sinister freemium hook crops up, as you can only play a finite number of times before you need to purchase “Survival Tickets.” To do that, you need to pick up some coins, which you’ll have to spend real money on. They aren’t particularly expensive, but the game isn’t above trying to force you to buy more than you may need. For example, if you want to purchase three Survival Tickets, that will run you 80 coins, but this means you’ll have to shell out $1.99 for 140 coins, as you only receive 70 at the $0.99 price point. Again, not a total deal-breaker, but still kind of slimy.

Even with this laundry list of problems, Shadow Escaper is still worth a download. It’s free, so you won’t be out anything, and it’s one of a very few games I’m willing to describe as lovably insane. It’s possible you’ll hate it, but it’s just as possible you’ll fall in love with its particular brand of weirdness.