Given both the quality and quantity of auto-runner games on the App Store, you really have to come up with something impressive to be successful nowadays. Not only are there a lot of titles to compete with, but the good ones could literally leave people satisfied to never look for another game again, given their infinite replayability. Unfortunately, Don’t Run With a Plasma Sword doesn’t come up with enough reasons for us to prefer it over any other game like it.
Don’t Run With a Plasma Sword has neither the charm and variety of Jetpack Joyride, nor the pure skill-testing of Canabalt. What you’ve got here is a game that is tedious at its worst and frustrating at its best.
Let’s try that again, this time while walking.
Too often you’ll find yourself plummeting into a pitfall that wasn’t visible until after you’ve exhausted your options for control. This sort of situation never feels good in any game. It’d be less of a problem if the game only consisted of its Endless Mode (as the unpredictability is part of the fun), but the levels you have to play through to progress through the game’s uninspired story are too long and visually monotonous to memorize. There’s no mid-stage checkpointing, and we found ourselves replaying the same parts of the game over and over.
Not exactly the same parts, though. Either it’s a scripting bug, or the developers thought it would be a good idea not to spawn enemies and power-ups in the same places each time you play. This might be an attempt to keep multiple cracks at one stage from becoming stale, but it mostly just compounds the problem of these levels not having any distinctive markers, making it that much harder to strategize.
This game also happens to be one of the more egregious examples of being able to buy your way through a game. You can purchase 100,000 XP for $0.99, which is more than twice the amount of XP it costs to unlock all four chapters of the story. While being able to buy your way through a lot of the game rubs us the wrong way, we ended up grinding XP in Endless Mode to buy access to the final chapter. It was far less irritating and way faster than beating the remainder of chapter three.
Time to lay off the hallucinogens.
You can also use XP to buy skills for your character. Upgrading your character is supposed to make you feel more awesome, not merely capable. Until you get a few upgrades like double jumping and a diving attack, you feel terribly underpowered. Flying through the air and suddenly see that you’re going to land on an enemy? You have no defense without the diving attack. Even once you’ve upgraded it, the game doesn’t always seem to register hits correctly.
Despite the obnoxious difficulty found at points in the game, the platforming and combat of the early levels can be mind-numbingly dull. As an experiment, we started Endless Mode in the game’s first level and didn’t touch the screen at all. We survived almost 40 seconds before dying. That’s a long time to wait for something to happen.
As the crazy experiment we did shows, we really didn’t feel a strong connection between our actions and their results in the game. This is the core issue in Don’t Run With A Plasma Sword. Ultimately, it may appeal to some of the more masochistic action-platformer fans, but it’s not an easy game to recommend.