In the world of mobile gaming, “runners” have become ubiquitous to the extent that anyone introducing a new running title is going to have an uphill battle out of obscurity. That’s exactly the challenge indie developer Pixels on Toast must face with its newest iOS game, Food Run. Fortunately, this quirky little side-scroller does just enough to set itself apart from the more generic of the genre.
Like most runners, Food Run is simple. As you (a selectable piece of food with legs) run through each level, you’re tasked with collecting stars and freeing various foods from floating bubbles. These foods join your “food chain,” a conga line of nutrition, as you bounce, roll and stomp your way to the finish line. As the player, you have one control: tapping the screen to jump. Because of this, and the fact that the first few levels serve as a pretty good tutorial, Food Run is a breeze to jump right into.
Rising above the run-of-the-mill runner, Food Run isn’t a straight side-scrolling platformer. At times, your food chain will need to change direction. This is managed—quite cleverly—by running your character into a wall, forcing your line to make an about-face. Other clever elements that help this game succeed beyond many of its competitors include super-jumps off of the backs of enemies, downhill rolling (achieved through automatic transition) and hidden passageways. For the most part, these game-changing features are introduced in levels of their own and later combined in other levels.
Where Food Run really succeeds is in its presentation. Not only is this game cute (seriously, you can be a walking hamburger that squeaks out a grunt when it jumps), it’s extremely well-polished and altogether beautiful. Pixels on Toast clearly shrugged off the current trend of rougher-looking mobile games (Jetpack Joyride, Super Crate Box, etc.) and, in contrast, its levels and characters look fantastic. The sound design, too, including a plethora of adorable sound effects and surprisingly interesting background music, helps this game stand out.
Despite its ease of entry and overall adorableness, Food Run can be challenging at times. Unless you’re a downright pro, this 40-level game can take a couple of hours to play through and one or two more to achieve 100% completion. Some sections require knowledge gained through trial-and-error while others call for expert timing in avoiding spikes, pitfalls and baddies. These cases can get a bit frustrating, and having to restart levels over and over again due to one section of pin-point accuracy can give the game a bit of a stale taste after a while. For the most part, however, the game is well balanced, despite the occasional surge in difficulty.
If there’s one thing working against Food Run, it’s the oversaturated market of runners that already exists. Most people have a favorite runner already, be it Temple Run, Jetpack Joyride, Robot Unicorn Attack or something else, and they’re less likely to drop 99 cents on a new one. Though not an outright revolutionary title, Food Run’s quirkiness, combined with the fact that it’s level-based, rather than being an “endless runner,” might put the game in a bit of a niche. If you aren’t completely sold on your old iOS runner, or you’re looking for something with a bit of its own flavor, consider making Food Run your next 99-cent splurge. You won’t get to brag about your high score, but trust me—it’s so cute, you won’t mind.
Food Run will be available on the App Store Jan. 17, 2013.
Food Run was published and developed by Pixels on Toast. It was released on Jan. 17, 2013. An iOS copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.