To be fair, the first thing to address in this review would be this: my distaste for endless runner games seems to be growing at the same rate as they continue to multiply. I am beginning to fear that they are named as such for a different reason altogether, for they simply won't stop coming out. That was pretty much the mindset I had before booting up this title, something assigned to me as just another endless runner title. But after playing with it for a bit, I can say with certitude that I have been pleasantly surprised by Boson X.
That surprise stems from the fact that I am not quite sure if this is even an endless runner game or not. On the one hand, it certainly passes (or is that fails?) the duck test. It looks like an endless runner, feels like an endless runner, sounds like an endless runner, etc. But for some reason, I did not find myself recoiling in disgust.
Could that perhaps be due to me being a sucker for games with a stylish, retro look? Most definitely. Because Boson X has all of those qualities and more. However, I think it's a more substantive reason than that. Really, it's because this inventive title is more of mash-up of that most ubiquitous of mobile genres with a good, old-school action oriented puzzle game.
There have been a lot of comparisons made between Terry Cavanagh's excellent Super Hexagon and Boson X. All of which are definitely on the money. But aside from a shared love of rockin' chip tunes, retro graphics and rotating geometrical shapes, that's where the comparisons can stop. The concept of this game is wholly its own.
In Boson X, you play a tweed jacket-wearing professor (complete with leather patches… or is that tweed patches on a leather jacket?) who finds himself trapped inside of a giant particle accelerator, leaping from platform to platform to keep himself from being smashed to atoms. The longer you can manage to stay alive and keep your atoms intact, the more energy you will collect. And the more energy you can collect, the more new particles you will discover, which is how you can progress in the game. Well that CERNtainly sounds interesting, now doesn't it?
The controls in this fast-paced title are intuitive and easy to use. In the grand, Gordon Freeman tradition of athletic scientists, you can maneuver the Boson X professor all over the screen, having him jump right, left, and ahead in varying degrees. Just tap in the direction you want him to go and hold on to the screen for how high you want him to fly.
Tapping right and left will move him in those directions, while tapping both sides of the screen at the same time will have him jump forward. It's awkward for about a minute, but then becomes second nature. This is a good thing too, because the farther you get in the game, the last thing you want to be doing is thinking about the controls. At later levels, the particle accelerator gets flipped to 11, taking the action along with it into hyper drive.
Coupled with the hard difficulty is an online leader board that's already full of people that are way better at this game than I am (as is usually the case with games that have big difficulty spikes like this one). But aside from that feature, there's not a whole lot of extras. Much like its spare, minimalist style, Boson X is no frills. It's all about the science here, people. Well, that and mobile-gaming goodness. Don't be fooled, this is not an endless runner that will have you snoozing in the back of the lecture hall.