Zynga finally realized that they needed to capitalize the ever growing “Infinite runner” market. Around a week ago they launched their brand new game called Running with Friends in order to provide a refreshing experience inside a genre that is dominated by the Temple Run franchisee. I played Running with Friends for a few hours and to be honest I love every bit of it. In this app review we are going to take a closer look at this game and find out how it manages to keep its own personality and provide a social element to it. Let’s roll!
The concept behind running with friends is pretty interesting and unlike anything we have seen in the past couple of runner games. You see, most of the runners are based on weird imaginative world, be it an ancient temple or a broken rail line in the sky. This is where Zynga’s game differs from the cluster as they take on the theme of bulls chasing civilians in a classic Spanish backdrop. The moment you start the game you are presented with an inverted camera angle showing some buffy bulls running towards you and the only way for your character to survive is to outrun them as long as possible.
Points are scored based on two basic criteria: the distance you have traveled and the amount of starts you managed to collect during a single run. Although the achievements sound limited but there is lot going on under the hood than you can perceive.
Once you are off to a flamboyant start, saving yourself from the Spanish bulls you have the all familiar gesture based controls to move your character. Various finger gestures help your avatar perform slides, jumps and switch between lanes. Since you are running in the streets of Spain you get a wider area to move which makes the entire experience a lot more enriching. For example, you may switch from one lane to another hoping to collect the next set of starts and soon realize that a bull is chasing towards you. At this point your only option is to use your quick reflex and change the lane. Once you play Running with Friends for a few minutes I am pretty sure that you will start enjoying the various options and varieties this game throws at you. There is no limit to the level of creativity gone behind making this game a fun memorable experience. All of a sudden you will find yourself dodging police cars, bulls on bikes, double decker buses etc. The controls feel very snappy and accurate.
Once you are knocked by a bull or any obstacle you can use your GEMS and start right where you left. The first retry costs 100 gems whereas the next one costs about 150. It’s sad that you can’t try a level more than two times which is a deliberate strategy to keep the competition fair. At the end of each game your total score is calculated by adding the distance and stars. Speaking of game, since Running with Friends is by a social gaming company it’s evident that there is a deep social element weaved into it. Each game consists of 3 rounds where you play one round and wait for your opponent who is a real player to finish his. At the end of both of your rounds (total 6) the person who scores the most wins it.
This structure makes the game a lot interesting as you can always bounce back after a bad first or second round. Just make sure that you smash all those wooden barrels, ride on bulls and take secret alleyways to collect additional starts.
Another cool feature about Running with Friends is its weekly leaderboard. You can constantly compare your score with your Facebook friends as well as random opponents that have competed with you. Leaderboards are a great motivation especially when you are in that 2nd or 3rd place and you just wanna take the top spot. You can even compare all time highscores; distances travelled and check your rankings on a global scale. Unless you are a genius expect your global rank to be 99+ if not more.
More about Gems
Zynga is a company that knows how to make money. They are one of those studios that bind your entire experience with an uncompromising currency system. In this game it’s all about gems and the more you collect the better is your chances for scoring more. Apart from the normal bulls and other obstacles you need to collect certain alphabets in each game. Once you complete a particular word like “Friends” “Quantity” etc. you are rewarded with additional gems. I am not happy about the fact that there is no daily bonus system. However, after playing the game for over 60-70 rounds I never had a serious lack of those green beans. A relatively small amount of gems are also earned after finishing each round. Finally, you get a ton of them when you reach the next level by earning a definite amount of experience points.
One question that should be popping in your mind is “What are these gems used for?” Well, you can spin a slot machine like special ability unlocker at the start of each round. These abilities allow you to get like 50 stars for breaking a barrel or maybe double your star count at the end of the round and so forth. As a matter of fact these upgrades can then be further upgraded to increase their value as well as multiplier before starting a round. All these options make Running with Friends a lot more compelling compared to some of the other runners.
Graphics and Sound
“OLEEEE”, that’s what the notification sounds like when someone challenges you in Running with Friends. The tune is powerful enough to transport you back into the action and before you realized you have crossed 5000m and played a few more rounds with other players. The sound feels comically authentic where you have a base layer of rhythm music setting the tone for the rest of the stuff. A synth scale accompanies when you collect a fleet of starts and it sounds satisfying. Bulls colliding with you sound like bowling balls hitting the pins. The game is fun and it’s a perfect boredom killer.
Speaking of graphics, Running with Friends comes packed with 3D cartoonistic graphics with retina resolution textures. Every element fits well with others providing a carnival feel to and a sense of rush in the streets of Spain. Even the police cars are labeled with the words “POLICIA”.
Running with Friends is definitely one of the best addictive games that I played under the Zynga banner. The beauty of the game lies in its ability to choose your own path of scoring the highest points. You get to select whether you wanna collect starts or travel the distance by sliding into other runners. If you are bored with Temple Run 2 then I seriously recommend this game to get a fresh perspective of the infinite runner genre. That doesn’t mean that I am not advising to those who are still enjoying other runner games. One thing that I can guarantee is that you will be addicted to it for a very long time and spend quite a few hours running away from bulls.