Sick of running games yet? Too bad! Salt Lake, with the publishing support of Zynga (cue the boos and hisses), has released… a multiplayer infinite runner. What? That’s right! One of, if not the first of its kind, Running with Friends features asynchronous head-to-head. Zynga, however, is notorious for business practices bordering on flat-out evil, and money-sucking game mechanics that are obnoxious at best.
After seeing the success of Jetpack Joyride, Temple Run 1 and 2, Canabalt, Mega Jump, etc. to the nth, simply hearing about another runner instinctively inspires a yawn in many of us. With such a big player bringing a new title to the well-worn genre, and with the brand new factor of multiplayer, it’s important to check out whether or not a grand splash has been made!
In an only slightly outlandish scenario, Running with Friends plops you at the front of a stampede in a cartoony version of Spain’s Running of the Bulls. The standard 3D runner holds up: If you run into a fatal obstacle or fail a jump, your run ends (unless you spend currency). If you smack against a parallel wall or hit a fragile obstacle, you stumble, and the bull bears down on you for a few seconds, wherein stumbling again means less-than-brutal trampling.
Of course, Running is multiplayer… and only multiplayer. Want to play by yourself? Tough! You have to play against another human being. As should be expected, Running is integrated with Facebook so that you can easily invite people you are friends with to play against you, and there is a matchmaking button that pits you against a random player supposedly near your skill level. The versus plays out as such: After challenging someone to a game, you play through a run and post your score. Your opponent won’t see your score until after they run. Two more rounds consisting of back-and-forth, and whomever has the highest total score wins the game.
The end-of-round screen carries but a slight hint of sadness
as the colorful stars orbit your unfrotunately dazed head.
Really, the multiplayer seems to add more pressure to buy stronger boosts, more chances to run, etc. When your opponent has beaten you handily in past rounds, you definitely feel more desire to spend more currency in order to take revenge. Against random people, the multiplayer serves little purpose. Playing with people you know remains predictably satisfying, especially if you agree not to spend currency to gain an advantage.
The running itself, however, is some of the best running action in the entire genre. Running has an extremely high skill cap! Score is measured in stars and distance. Stars are found in rows and arcs throughout the procedurally generated level, but they can also be gained by sliding through most of the obstacles in the run (stacks of hay, fellow “runners,” traffic cones, etc.) and by completing cool stunts, such as jumping on top of bulls running in the same direction (which springs you into the air). You can plainly see where the scale of skill rests ñ more cautious players will take a ìsafeî run and not risk running into an obstacle or the derriere of a bovine, whereas more adventurous and higher-skill players will actively tackle every obstacle they see and bounce atop every bull in their path.
Whee! Bulls are often positioned in order to let you
combo off of them, hopping from one to the next.
Given that there’s actually no persistent upgrades to buy, and only cosmetic character skins on which to spend extravagant amounts of currency, combined with the fact that you can often get away without spending too many gems on powerups even in a tough matchup… I must admit that Zynga failed to screw this title up. Salt Lake development did a fantastic job of taking the known world of iOS runners and improving on it with a free, original title. Do yourself a favor and go pick it up in the app store!