Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Flash Runner

Flash Runner. Well, it doesn't win any points for originality, but then we are talking about the world of casual games, so perhaps the direct approach is to be applauded. Before we begin, this is not a Flash game based on Blade Runner; I know the likes of Flash Portal or Flash Mirror's Edge might have caused you to get your hopes up as you dream of chasing down Replicants in a nightmarish, dystopian future choking on smog and drowning in acid rain, but you can stop that right now and prepare for horrible disappointment. Flash Runner is about exactly what it sounds like: running, then running some more, then stopping. There isn't actually any plot behind it to explain why it's so important to run. It's minimalist gaming, stripping away all the unessential items like story or graphics or fun.

The first thing you do is select the runner you wish to play as. There are only two differences: each one is noticeably faster than the last and only one of them doesn't look like a reject from a Pokemon cartoon. Once you've made your pick you can go straight to a tutorial level.

Here's where you really see what you've gotten yourself in for. The levels are flat, uninspiring geometric shapes with terrible colours vomited on screen. I've made more attractive looking things in MS Paint while drunk. Look, I'll show you:

He's standing next to a pond.

Anyway, Flash Runner. The tutorial level is where you discover that you're not actually running in any races, which makes this need to run through strange landscapes even more bizarre. Also, you control your (pretty frickin' small) character by holding down the left mouse button; the runner will speed up or slow down depending on his distance from the cursor. I'm a bit put off by this method of control simply because it makes the character harder to, well, control. And considering the speed at which you'll be moving through the levels, trying to get the runner to move exactly where you want him can prove more than a little frustrating.

There are all sorts of obstacles that you need to avoid, but they whizz by so fast that you barely notice them and it's almost impossible to avoid any that get your way. Luckily your character will automatically jump over logs and rocks, but he won't continue running unless you take your finger off the mouse button and click it again. Since every level is a race against the clock, this break in momentum can be a real pain in the ass.

Also, don't you dare think about running through water - this is Flash Runner, damn it, not Flash Swimmer! Seriously, though, this will piss you off more than anything else, because you have one narrow bridge that you can cross, and if you miss it by so much as an inch, you'll be sent back to the nearest checkpoint before you know what happened. It's a great way of creating a false sense of increasing difficulty, as if this game actually has a learning curve. No it doesn't - it's just forcing you to be more cautious, which means you'll move slower and take longer to complete a level. That's not the same as solving a new puzzle or measuring a jump in a platform game, it's simply screwing with the player.

Half the game involves collecting these... things. Really, that's all they are - things, with no relation to anything you'd see in real life, except maybe the planet Saturn. The tutorial says they're magic eggs, but I like the idea of collecting miniature Saturns a lot more. Hey, if you're going to make a game this brain-splatteringly ridiculous, you might as well go all out.

So, with no story and no character background, no explanation for the tiny Saturns or races to win, what exactly is the player trying to achieve? What is your reward for successfully completing a level?

Giant. Gold. Bunnies.


I don't know what it is about Flash Runner that I hate the most. Is it the awkward controls? The total lack of pleasing visuals? The sheer pointlessness of what you're doing? The answer, of course, is "Yes." Because these all come together in a game that bores and frustrates in equal measure. Eventually the only glimmer of satisfaction comes from ramming your character headlong into a wall.

Ah, that's better!


  1. HA HA looks like fun, im going to give it a try

  2. Looks cool, this game. worth to give a good try. I'm enjoying flash games now.=)

  3. I don't know why you're enjoying the games I review, because most of them are shite.