Ocean Runner is the latest eShop release from the prolific publisher Teyon. As you might have guessed, it’s a game in the endless runner genre, something which has struggled to evolve or bring anything new to the table since its inception. But to give the developers some credit, they have tried to give this game a fuller experience.
This one is a vertical runner. You take the role of Gilbert the clown fish who is looking for love. In order to prove his worth to the lady of his dreams, you must help him collect shells and complete missions. Surprisingly there is an actual story and purpose for doing what you are doing. Unlike most cheap runners, Ocean Runner gives you motivation to keep progressing and I like that, even if the story is just fluff.
By default controls are stylus based and so you use the touch screen to navigate Gilbert through various marine hazards and enemies. At the beginning stages of the level enemies are few and far between but as you get deeper and deeper into the ocean you will avoiding enemies every second.
There are a decent variety of enemies; crabs, electric eels, morays, jellyfish and so on. Each of them has their own characteristics and once you are familiar with them, they’re pretty easy to deal with. Now, you can avoid them by moving out of their way or you can dash attack them with a shoulder button. Doing so will give you extra shells and let you work up a combo. You will definitely need to master the dash attack if you want to get deep in the ocean.
To help you on your way there are many different powerups you can collect: Turtle power, where obstacles are removed for a short time while you follow a turtle dropping shells; Fire power where you turn into a rocket and blast past everything; Bubble power where you grow a horn and enemies become bubbles making them easy to dispatch.
Getting deep into the ocean and collecting shells is all well and good, but it’s not always the way to progress in the story. At any one point in the game you will have three missions on the go. They can be just about anything. From something as simple as swimming 200m in one game, to taking out 5 jellyfish. There are even some strange ones like being a pacifist by not attacking 30 crabs, not collecting any shells for 30m or even allowing yourself to get taken out by a certain enemy.
Each time you accomplish a mission you will gain a pearl that goes to unlocking segments of the story. Needless to say, once you get a hang of things it’s not particularly difficult to start unlocking the story. As you progress missions either become a little more difficult, or at the very least, more time consuming.
It’s clear to see this game is aimed at a younger audience, with the Finding Nemo art style, cartoonish characters and simple gameplay. But if you look past that, it’s something everyone can probably get enjoyment out of.
To add to the list of things to do, the shells do have some worth in the fact you can use them to purchase upgrades to your abilities or power ups. It certainly makes you feel like you’re improving all the time and the upgrades really do feel like they help. You can even unlock some pricey skins for Gilbert, although it’s a shame there’re so few of them.
Visually the game is fine, although you can’t help but feel the cheapness and the aim for their target audience. The running environment is fine, every 100m or so it changes up to give variety. I will say it’s not always easy to distinguish what is part of the background and what is a hazard in your way, but that didn’t cause too much trouble as I just avoided everything that looked a little suspicious.
Turn the 3D off. Due to the nature of the game, constantly checking between two different screens and following the shell trail across them both with your eyes is disorientating at the best of times, with 3D on it’s almost impossible.
The music is a bit strange. The menu themes are fine, a typical Caribbean/beach type affair, but during the gameplay it switches to a pop punk track. It’s a bit generic but nice overall. I kept expecting to hear Blink 182 vocals at any point during the song. It just feels out of place.
As mentioned before, the stylus is the main control scheme and it works really well to be honest, it’s nice and accurate. Although you can switch to controlling Gilbert with the control pad, at which I can hear many of you sighing in relief. It works well too. It’s slightly less precise but it’s enough once you get used to the difference. For those wanting a real gimmick you can also attempt to use the gyro controls. It’s obviously the most difficult of the options but it can be enjoyable, I think children will like this option a lot.
Overall Ocean Runner is a decent addition to a rather dry and shallow genre. It’s certainly one that can be recommended for children and even adults can find some enjoyment out of it if you can get past the aesthetics. Although not particularly interesting, it has a story mode that gives you something to keep aiming for and make progress. It’s also rather addictive. Just don’t turn that 3D slider up.
– Nice progression
– Plenty of control options
– “Just one more go”
– Distinction between hazards
– Repetitive and out of place music