It’s night time, and you’re running through a misty forest of twisted trees, dried-up bushes, and waist-high grave stones. Creepy sounds drone in the background. What you’re running from and is never explained, but the real danger is the obstacles. Brush against a tree, and you’ll feel it. Crash head-on into one, and it’s game over.
Dead Runner is an interesting take on the nonstop running genre popularized by Canabalt. The difference is the perspective: In Dead Runner, you experience the action first hand, from the eyes of the sprinter. The draw distance is decent, as the obstacles appear far enough away that you can usually get out of their path. As you run, however, you gain speed, which ups the challenge.
Baby, we were born to run.
The controls are tilt-based, and they feel pretty responsive, but limited. Rather than executing precise direction changes, it feels more like you’re nudging your character left or right. Even if you tilt the device on its side, your character still just seems to drift that direction. Nor does turning happen quickly. But this is a high score game, so you have to lose at some point.
Two gameplay options are included, Distance Mode and Point Mode. Distance Mode is self explanatory: Stay alive as long as possible. Point Mode puts floating orbs of various colors in the environment. The goal is still to avoid crashing, but picking up orbs nets you point multipliers to bulk up you score. OpenFeint supplies the achievements and leaderboards.
That’s the whole game. There are no power-ups beyond the orbs and no enemies aside from the trees and grave stones. You can run into bushes to slow yourself down, but you can’t jump or duck or throw fireballs. All you can do is gently drift left and right. That said, the game’s still pretty enjoyable. It has an immersive atmosphere, and when you die you’ll probably want to try again immediately to see if you can go farther. But since there’s hardly any content here, you’ll probably stop playing after a few minutes and never pick it back up.