Joe is an intrepid adventurer who is having a really bad day. After realizing that he is on one side of the island but his boat is on the other, he is suddenly pounced upon by a pack of hungry cannibals who would love nothing more than to serve him up for dinner. In order to survive, Joe needs to sprint across the beach, dash through the forests, and plunge through the caves before the cannibals can sink their teeth into him. In short, he needs to Run Like Hell!
Run Like Hell! Is an endless runner from Polish studio Mass Creation. It was first made available as a mobile game on Android and iOS, but it is now making its appearance on the PS Vita. If you’re wondering how the game stacks up on a dedicated gaming powerhouse like the Vita, sadly the answer is not very well. For good or bad, it’s an endless runner that manages to trip and fall as many times as it leaps to success.
The game offers three different ways to play: The Great Escape, Arcade, and Online. Let me take a second here just to review what each of these modes offer.
The Great Escape is the campaign or story mode of the game. In it, you play as Joe, a Nathan Drake look-a-like who needs to flee a group of hungry cannibals while jumping and sliding around obstacles to make it to the end of the stage. Each stage runs anywhere from 30 seconds to just under two minutes (and the longer ones feel really long). The game has you constantly running to the right, so your job is to navigate over or under a variety of obstacles in order to keep moving. As soon as you trip or slow down, the cannibals quickly descend upon you.
The levels feature various environments such as the beach or a native village and the obstacles will change accordingly. Throughout the levels you can grab a number of power ups, such as adrenaline, to give you a quick boost in your flight. It’s also important to know that unlike a lot of games coming out these days, in Run Like Hell! all the levels are static and will remain the exact same each time you play them. This is actually a necessary evil and highlights one of the biggest problems I had with the game.
Run Like Hell! has too many times when you’re forced to make a decision, and it’s next to impossible to wisely make the correct one. For example, Joe comes to a platform, and you have to decide whether he should jump on it or slide under it. You could decide to slide under it only to trip over a rock which allows the cannibals to catch you. Or you could be jumping from pillar to pillar and you need to decide whether your next leap is going to be a giant one, or maybe just a small hop. One of them usually leads you to a successful outcome while the other causes you to slow down drastically. The problem is that you don’t know which is the right one until it is too late. Then when you play through the level again you know what the correct path is: on the second platform you want to leap over it and then slide under the fifth one. It gets to be aggravating and frustrating when each run is often times more about luck than it is about skill.
The good part is that it doesn’t last very long. The campaign is relatively short, and depending on your luck can be fully completed in just a couple of hours. Some levels are longer and trickier than others and take a few more minutes to complete, but they can all be done rather quickly with a few tries. There are also some levels which just require you to tap the shoulder buttons in rhythm to a bouncing meter at the bottom of the screen. These levels are so easy and dull that it’s a wonder why they were even included them in the game.
After the campaign is over you can then move in to the Arcade mode, which is the truly endless part of this endless runner. The goal in Arcade is to survive for as long as possible. In every other way it is exactly like the levels in the story mode along with the same random chances for success with each and every move.
And lastly we have the Online mode, which is actually the saving grace for the entire game. In the Online mode you can choose to participate in one of the weekly challenges or compete against others in an online race. Though, it’s not truly an online race as you’re only racing an avatar of another player’s play through of the level. Still, it is infinitely more entertaining than the standard modes. I think it’s partly because you’re in a race with real people, but also because everyone is playing with the same advantages/disadvantages that you are. Yes, you still don’t know whether you should slide under a platform or jump over it, but neither does the other guy. Everyone is on a level playing field, and that makes it somewhat refreshing.
At least you’re all on a level playing field unless you or your opponents decide to spend coins to buy power ups before each race. As I mentioned earlier, this game started life on mobile platforms and what would a mobile game be without having to collect coins (or purchase them in bundles thanks to the ever present micro-transaction)? Coins are scattered throughout the levels in Arcade/Online modes, and you collect them to unlock various items. You can purchase power ups before a race or you can spend them to unlock different characters to play. And of course, if you don’t want to waste your time collecting coins, you can always head over to the store and buy a whole bunch for a small fee. You can get 500,000 coins for a mere $20 (which, I might point out, is 4x what the game costs). This should be enough to unlock all the other characters which you can then use in either the Arcade or Online modes (Joe is the only character available during the campaign mode).
But enough talk of coins and micro-transactions. Let’s talk about something easy, like the controls. In Run Like Hell! the controls are as simple as they are frustrating. You can jump, slide, or push to the right to use any adrenaline you may have for an extra boost. The longer you hold the button for your jump, the further you go. Tap it and you perform a small hop. They’re easy to figure out, but mastering them is a bit trickier. The problems arise when you approach an obstacle and if your timing isn’t just right, you will automatically begin to climb it. During this climbing animation, you have no control over your character, which can be frustrating. So if you need to make a jump right away, chances are you’re not going to be able to. Or sometimes you’ll stumble from one obstacle into the next without being able to make your character do anything.
Visually the game is pleasant to look at with a colorful, cartoon art style that provides a nice atmosphere. Where the presentation really excels however is in the music. The main adventurer’s theme is fantastic and each of the different areas have their own unique music style. Sometimes it’s hard to hear it over the “Oogah Boogahs!” of the cannibals, but it is generally very well done.
Sadly, even though the game features some decent music, the rest of it is mediocre at best. It is rarely fun, and more often than not it is just frustrating. To me it seems to epitomize everything that is wrong with the “endless runner” genre of games, and while I think the idea behind the game is interesting, the execution is less than successful. The levels are either dull and repetitive or else they’re frustrating with their randomness. Either way, Run Like Hell! is a game that I would have a hard time recommending. If you’re desperate for an endless runner, then maybe, but if you’re looking for a good time, you should probably look elsewhere. The only redeeming quality is the Online play which can be fun in short bursts, but unfortunately it is only available if you’re connected to the internet.
Run Like Hell! has the potential to be a fun little time waster, but more often than not it is just a waste of time.