Julius, the popular Paul Frank sock monkey icon, now has his own endless runner that takes him across several islands to rescue his buddy Birdie. How does he do so? In a variety of different ways. Julius is forced to contend with several hazards during his run, but this bright and cheery endless runner doesn’t break any new ground. It’s a mishmash of familiar concepts, and we’ve seen those concepts done better elsewhere.
Julius tackles several islandic paradise-like levels teeming with items to collect, a smiling sun in the distance overseeing the actions going on below, barrels, and other hazards that serve to keep him from reaching his beloved girlfriend. He’s quite the acrobatic little monkey, as one might expect, and his moves range from sliding, jumping, and gliding, all to be used in a bid to cross widening chasms, barrels, and every single impedance that could stop him from making progress.
When you don’t invite bad guys to your picnics, they get really jealous.
Unfortunately, Swashbuckler has little to no content within it to suggest any awesome swordfighting is about to ensue, or anything really, beyond collecting coins and making a mad dash to safety. Swapping out between Paul’s regular running stance is done via swipe and touch gestures, but it can be a bit difficult to differentiate between which modes you’re using when the game speeds up. Most levels find you running at a decent enough speed to account for possible input errors, but when things heat up precision becomes key. This can result in some easy deaths, so it’s best to stay alert and remain as precise as you can with the sometimes fiddly controls.
There’s a decent amount of action going down in each level, with cannons that blast Julius from place to place, volcano passageways, and other attractive decor that makes the journey less mundane. But in the end, Swashbuckler simply feels derivative, as if it weren’t injected with enough personality to make it work. Simply slapping a well-known designer and mascot onto a game doesn’t make it a formidable adventure, or worth picking up. Swashbuckler feels much more like a collection of well-known tropes imprinted with colorful overlays and silly mascot characters than an honest-to-goodness, brand-new swing at the endless runner genre. Perhaps the bizarre, brightly-colored stages lend an unbelievable lilt to it all, as it feels very much like a cash grab.
Pirates work for peanuts.
Even so, there’s plenty of content here. The main adventure is comprised of five worlds with several different stages, and two minigames to boot. Clancy’s Emerald Frenzy is a puzzle game all its own, and Pufak’s Dash is an additional endless runner meant simply for players to advance as far as possible. Both are interesting additions to the main content, and they didn’t have to be included as extras, so it’s certainly appreciated that even for a less-than-creative title there’s plenty to see and do.
Fans of Paul Frank and these types of games will likely see Swashbuckler as another cheap toy to add to their collection, but for discerning app gamers, this will be a pass for something with a little more substance, and maybe something with some real swashbuckling. Sorry Julius, you’re cute enough, but this is just bland.