Endless runners gained fame after Canabalt's development, but the concept truly exploded in popularity after the successes of Bit.Trip Runner, Robot Unicorn Attack, and Jetpack Joyride. Not content to let Temple Run’s 170 million downloads be ignored, however, Imangi Studios designed Temple Run 2 from the ground up, fixing vulgar exploits and leaving the controls untampered. At 50 million current downloads(!!!), this follow-up shows no signs of slowing down, either. The developers introduce new power-ups, more characters, fresh environments, a visual overhaul, and cheap microtransactions, though Temple Run 2 – perhaps as a consequence of genre oversaturation – never feels needed.
The unease derives from Temple Run 2’s unerring attachment to auto-runner fundamentals. Guy Dangerous, having angered the warrior gods by stealing their golden idol once again, continues his desperate never-ending marathon to escape a skull-faced temple guardian. The curse never lifts. Temple Run 2 dooms adventurers to an eternity of steep hills, underground caverns, and jungle ruins, denying you and your long-distance runner a sense of completion. Where Imangi had the chance to implement alternate modes, hidden levels, or lighthearted minigames, they played by the rules. They opted for safe.
Instead, metal zip lines, rusted minecarts, raging rapids, and rotating spikes account for the greatest transformations to the Temple Run blueprint, and a bigger budget no doubt covered the texture makeovers for both the characters and the environments. A better draw distance also allows players to circumvent sheer cliffs, roaring fires, and collapsed tunnels sooner, but the novel obstacles and their accompanying terrain changes lose their luster within minutes.
One compliment I do have to pay to the intrepid Guy, I am jealous of that man's endurance.
Visual variety notwithstanding, Temple Run 2’s randomized mazes assuage some repetition concerns, and the lack of pattern memorization frees up cognitive resources to aid your reaction times. Ultimately, you learn when those spikes result in acute death or mild paper cuts, when those jets of flame warm your heart or charbroil your skin, and when you must tap the screen – not too early, not too late – before colliding with an immovable wall.
The controls did not need mending, and remain the one constant across dozens of getaway attempts. Guy Dangerous performs leaps of faith, ducks under tree trunks, and obeys left or right turns with appropriately timed swipes. Players hug the walls by tilting their phones or tablets too, a maneuver often required once minecart tracks split, temple passages crumble, or coins desire collecting. However, the regular iPad’s bulk makes angling the device in one hand, and directing Guy with the other, unwieldy.
The iPhone's size boosts your chances of securing a higher leaderboard position, though one notable addition actually permits spendthrifts to buy their ways to the top of the charts. Gems, when sacrificed, resurrect Guy after a premature death – his score, coins, and distance traveled kept intact. Players that decline to trade real money for these fictional emeralds can still accrue gemstones (rarely) littered about the environment, yet Temple Run 2 prompts you to continue at the expense of your hard-earned treasure each time you die. Worse, that cost increases exponentially, meaning gamers that cannot afford the in-app purchases have no hopes of chasing more extravagant leaderboard ranks.
The game always begins with a hasty zip line escape.
Those gems do more than boost your virtual ego, too; they make completing objectives a breeze. Beginner goals implore you to obtain a specified number of coins or points, while the more arduous tasks demand you suppress chronic gamer urges and run 250 meters without gathering coins, or refrain from using a gem to cheat death. Finished objectives pay in experience, and leveling allocates more gold for ability upgrades or extra characters.
Consequently, unlocking new skills requires players to purchase the associated adventurer first. The standard shield protects Guy from hazards, Karma’s power-up provides an instant point bonus, and Scarlett’s activates speed boosts immediately. Acquiring coins during your runs readies these potential life-saving skills, though other spontaneous-use power-ups also populate the temple grounds. Except, every ability seems superfluous next to the indomitable gems. No matter the duration of the coin magnet or the frequency with which other pickups spawn, they hardly alter the gameplay.
Will Temple Run 2 break Temple Run’s waning download record? Most likely. The well-tested controls set this sequel apart from the clutter of endless runner duplicates, and the free-to-play model softens certain negative notions. But honestly, the developers improve on their formula much as Pepsi or Coca-Cola do with their soft drinks. The flashy logo and revamped exterior does not affect the product’s taste, and after you finish your third dozen soda (or run, in this case), you realize how quickly the brand has grown stale. As other video game companies proceeded to innovate and test new recipes, those teams left Imangi Studios in their dust.