Remedy Rush is composer-developer Whitaker Trebella’s fourth mobile release, joining the ranks of earlier titles Polymer, Pivvot, and Piloteer in what has become a fascinating assortment of games across a variety of genres. Polymer presented players with a surprisingly complex sliding tile puzzle that could be arranged into multiple tendrils of color and removed piecemeal for points. Pivvot was a stylish rhythmic dodger with a catchy soundtrack but an unexpected dip in challenge after Polymer’s brain-blistering difficulty. And Piloteer utilized wacky physics and floppy controls to make flying a jetpack even morbidly short distances feel like a victory.
Despite being nothing like any of its predecessors in gameplay or final result, Remedy Rush does share some important characteristics with Trebella’s earlier works. It requires forethought and planning as in Polymer; rewards quick reaction time and responding to the unexpected as in Pivvot; and celebrates the playful and bizarre as in Piloteer. It combines all these in an endless virus squasher that is as much arcade as it is puzzle, as strategic as it is reactionary, and as much fun as it is brilliant.
Remedy Rush is, at its base, an endless high score chaser with random character unlocks à la that most well-known of endless games, Crossy Road. But Remedy Rush feels nothing like Crossy Road or any others in the genre thanks to its theme and all of its other, crucial, gameplay features. The game takes place inside your body on a day you woke up sick. You control your home remedy of choice—chocolate chip cookies to begin with—and move it through the endless halls of your body in an attempt to stop the invading germs and destroy the mine-like toxins that have set up shop. Your cells are represented by white square walls, the toxins by red blocks, and the germs by yellow bugs crawling around your insides.
You move through the body one tap or swipe at a time, maneuvering around the cell walls and towards—or away from—the toxin and germ dangers. If you bump into a red toxin block, it will be set off, highlighting an area around it and exploding in that area shortly after. If you are trapped within its blast radius, your run is over, but if you move out of the way you’ll earn points for destroying a sickness-inducing toxin. Any yellow germs that are trapped in the explosion, or any that you destroy with your usable health burst bombs, will also add points to your total.
Destroying toxins and germs contributes to a combo meter, so the more chains of explosions you can set off, the more points you will earn. The farther you travel the more densely packed with dangers the body becomes, so you can not only earn critically high scores later in a run, but you’ll also be at constant risk of a toxin or germ blowing you to bits first. And all the while, the wave of sickness itself is chasing you down, forcing you to continue moving forward even when a giant bomb outline is blocking your path or a frontline of germs is slurping toward you.
All together, the result is a manic, exhilarating race that demands both fast reflexes and preparation. You might use a health burst to set off a toxin from a safe distance, but then be out of bursts—you can only store three total—when a germ barrels down on you. Do you set off a toxin and destroy any nearby health burst pick-ups or grab and go while sacrificing points? Any time you do bump into a toxin to set it off you need to be prepared to move out of the way of the impending explosion and any chain reactions that come after. And you can never stop for too long to think things through lest the sickness catch you and the cookie crumbles.
That is, if you’re still using the cookie as your remedy. Remedy Rush has 32 different characters, or remedies, to unlock and use as your offense against the invading illness. They’re all fairly common objects that range from sensible ways to deal with a sick day—like an apple or television—to slightly bizarre stretches—like deodorant or a flip flop. At first we thought the weird roster of remedies was just a tongue-in-cheek way to adhere to mobile’s character collecting craze, but many of the unlockables greatly change the way the game is played and must be approached. They almost provide unique modes for the game: the hair dryer, which makes your health bursts’ explosions much larger but limits you to one at a time, plays very differently than the teddy bear, which prevents germs from tracking and following you. Some remedies offer only cosmetic changes—such as the diamond ring which creates a “snow” effect or the avocado which causes more screenshake—but those that affect gameplay do so in a big way.
Even before the added bonus of unlocking and mastering all the different remedies’ changes and effects, Remedy Rush was already a satisfyingly deep puzzle-runner with a lot of little details and clever strategies—like bumping back into aggressive germs—that are a treat to uncover and employ. It’s a game that’s as much fun to learn as it is to master, and we’ve far from mastered it. We’re looking forward to many, many more sick days to come.