Well, this is a strange little game and no mistake. After the first few games initial impressions were not good and I thought it likely to be a candidate for quick deletion. Yet, if you give it a chance Chop Chop Runner is one of those games that somehow gets under your skin and keeps you coming back for more. Which just goes to show: before you cast judgement, you really need to give things a fair crack of the whip.
Like so many iPhone games, the basic idea behind Chop Chop Runner is very simple. You control a little ninja who has to run along and jump over gaps in the landscape. Along the way are various bad guys who will try to stop you and you have to bash them out of your way using your ninja flying kick. Hit a bad guy or fall down a hole, and it's game over.
In terms of gameplay, Chop Chop Runner is a pure, unashamed score attack game. The only real objective is to run as far as you can and kill as many bad guys as you can. Games are short (typically 2-3 minutes long), making it the perfect pick up and play title when you want to kill a few minutes. The simple, but fun game play will appeal to experienced and younger gamers alike and it offers plenty of entertainment value for its 59p asking price.
After some initial frustrations, it proves to be a fiendishly addictive game. If you do well and get a good score, there's an instant feeling of achievement which makes you hit the restart button to see if you can do even better next time. A poor game also sees you hitting the restart button, determined that this time you will do better.
Graphically, the game is instantly appealing. Bright, colourful cartoon-like graphics are the main-stay, with the background landscape looking like it has come straight from a child's drawing ( bright green trees, bright yellow, round sun). Graphics are crisp and clear and the gaps between platforms clearly defined - something which becomes crucial as the game progresses. Your little ninja is small, but perfectly formed and also rather cute, which makes you want to take care of him and make sure he doesn't die. There's some nice variety in the enemies (samurai, skulls, scorpions) which are equally colourful and cartoon like. These bright, colourful graphics are perfectly suited to the simple nature of the game and will certainly appeal to younger gamers.
From an audio point of view, Chop Chop Runner is less impressive. Sound is pretty much limited to an in-game tune which can become annoying after a while, and I tend to play with the sound off. There are absolutely no other sound effects and the odd "boing" as you leap a gap or "thwack" as you kill an enemy would not have gone amiss. It's a shame sound is so weak as it does have a slight impact on the overall atmosphere.
The controls are delightfully simple, with just two basic things to learn. This makes it a great title to just pick up and start playing immediately. Your Ninja runs across the screen from left to right automatically (gradually picking up speed). All you need to do is tap the screen to jump; the longer you hold your finger to the screen, the longer the jump. Double-tapping the screen launches and attack on any nearby enemies.
It's at this stage that it looks as though things might be about to go horribly wrong. True the controls are easy to grasp, but your first few attempts are likely to have you howling in frustration. Initially, it's quite hard to judge how long you should press on the screen to jump gaps of different sizes, and there is an element of guesswork. Persevere, though, and the controls soon becomes second nature and you'll find yourself hopping around like a demented Easter Bunny on a caffeine overdose. This is the bit which will decide whether you love this game or loathe it. If you get to grips with the controls, it's fantastically addictive, but you do need to invest a little bit of time learning how to use them, which rather goes against the pick-up-and-play concept behind the title.
There are a couple of additional frustrations. Sometimes the game seems to move a little too fast for its character and you find yourself right on the right hand edge of the screen. When this happens, you have virtually no time to react to jumps or enemies and can be dead before you know it. Since level layouts are randomly generated, some games seem much trickier than others, with difficult jumps almost from the word go, which can lead to some very short games. Finally, the controls can be frustrating since once you have committed to a jump, you can't change it. If you suddenly realise you are going to miss a ledge, there's nothing you can do except watch helplessly, as your character plunges to his doom.
Actually, there's one exception to that. If an enemy is visible on screen when you fall a double-tap launches a "comeback attack" and puts you back on screen, allowing you to carry on. The first few times this happens it's incredibly confusing! One minute, you are resigned to having to start again, the next your suddenly back on screen, racing towards a new hazard with barely a moment to readjust to your sudden reincarnation! Even now I find this a useful, but confusing feature and am not always aware it's happened until it's too late!
These flaws can leave you with the feeling that the game is a little unfair at times and that deaths are not always your fault, but the result of some underhand tactics employed by the game.
It takes a little bit of perseverance to appreciate the simple joys of Chop Chop Runner. Initially, it seems difficult and unforgiving, with inflexible, frustrating controls. Spend just ten minutes learning the mechanics of how they work, though, and it soon turns out to be a simple game but one packed with entertainment.
Chop Chop Runner is one of those titles that just has a certain something. It might appear simple and uncomplicated, and it's certainly not without its frustrating elements. Yet it's also worryingly addictive and you'll soon find yourself constantly returning for "just one more quick game."
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