Monday, January 28, 2013

Temple Run 2 Review

Temple Run 2
The sequel to the 2011-12 hit Temple Run has finally arrived on Android. Created by Imangi studios the Temple Run series is one of the most popular mobile games available today, second only to Angry Birds.
Like Angry Birds the Temple Run series is free to play and download. For the low cost of a few clicks you too can start your adventure. If you are looking for a great way to burn a few minutes between classes, interviews, or buses get this game.

As you start Temple Run 2 you are greeted by the now familiar Idol that you, as Guy Dangerous will swipe to start the game and enrage the monkeys.

An endless running game, the point of Temple Run 2 is to avoid obstacles, like rivers, spike wheels, narrow ridge-ways, and feral monkeys while acquiring Coins and Gems  in an attempt to escape the Temple with the Idol.

While the original was fun, the graphics and interface were clearly dated. The player felt like they were running on a flat board with turns being either left or right, yes the character could jump but even that felt flat.

Temple Run 2 is anything but flat, as reviewers at trusted reviews noted, "The most noticeable upgrade in Temple Run 2 is the vastly improved graphics. Vibrant colors and much more detailed environments add to the appeal of the lost city in the sky setting. 

The world is lush and has depth of field and play. As you start the game, every run in fact starts this way, your character leaps onto a zip-line and swings into play demonstrating that this is more than just a re-skin, ala Brave
After jumping over rivers, dodging past bricks on the ground, and sliding under low bridges you find yourself in a mining cart careening into a cavern. As you tilt your device to the left or the right the cart banks to avoid caved in tunnels and to avoid falling down the tracks that are broken away.

A further improvement was on the objective system of the first Temple Run which offered achievements to the player for doing certain tasks, like running for 500m without acquiring coins or running 500m without tripping on any obstacles. 
In the sequel fulfilling those objectives actually affects game play by leveling your character, which enables new special abilities. This adds another, RPGesque, layer to the game beyond just obstacle avoidance. Furthermore, as you level you receive additional bonuses like extra coins or extra gems.  

While the different characters, like in the original, play no differently, unlocking them does unlock other special abilities that can be given to any of the characters. Fortunately players can still customize their character to their play style. 

In the original game there existed boosts within the game, in the sequel those boosts still exist, but players also have the choice of applying one of those boosts to their character and every time they fill up their coin meter they can use that boost. I was personally partial to the speed boost, every time I collected a few hundred coins I was able to boost ahead 150m avoiding all obstacles. This simple change makes the game more fun and the increased customization options help to differentiate each play type.

There are two types of currency in Temple Run 2, coins and gems, and both can be acquired by playing the game or can be purchased via in game microtransactions. 
Coins are used to unlock and enhance abilities for your character, to power up for use those  special abilities while playing, and to unlock extra characters.Gems can be used to augment game play by “supersizing” powerups or by extending gameplay when one fails to avoid an obstacle. Gems do not appear nearly as frequently as coins but at least 1-3 appear in a short run, and many more in a long run.

Where many games developers fail, is by using this model to try and suck money out of their consumers. Imagini instead of creating a grindfest or a pay to play system that favors those who spend tens to hundreds of dollars, instead favored a “tax” on immediate gratification. John Thompson at Android police said it well, "What's great about this model is that if you don't want to spend any money, you don't have to; you can do everything within the game without spending a dime - it will just take you longer to progress as you play your way through."

If you want to unlock all the abilities and all of the characters and never have to worry about falling over a ledge and starting over, you can, for a price. If you want to enjoy the challenge of the game and are willing to sink a limited amount of time into the game you can unlock every aspect of the game. In just an hour of play I amassed a few dozen gems and enough coins to unlock a character and a few special abilities.
CNET reviewers do rightfully point out, that "In-app purchases allow for unlimited "continues," skewing the leader-boards to those who are willing to spend the money." Though for me I don't mind, since I don't competitively play. The money has to come from somewhere, if you really have to be "first" at a mobile game be prepared to finance your championship run. 

Don't forget to watch out for angry monkeys.

Prices at a glance
5,000 Coins - .99 cents
400,000 Coins - $19.99
5 gems - .99 cents
500 gems - $19.99
Temple Run 2 - Available in the Play store and on Itunes - Freemium

What is Freemium - Freemium is a business model where developers give the game away for free but lock away certain aspects of the game unless the player pays for them, either via in-game currency or via real money transactions. How this model is deployed can make or break a game. Restrict too much of the game and risk your game labeled pay to play. Charge too little, or restrict too little and risk not making any money on your hard work.

What are microtransactions - Microtransactions are simply small transactions, generally completed in game, that exchange real money, generally .99 to 19.99, for in game advantages, currency, or to unlock gameplay elements.