Endless running games are some of the best examples of time-eviscerating fun that you can find in the App Store. Chillingo's newest game, Save Them All, takes the experience and infuses it with super powers, zombies, nukes, and all kinds of apocalyptic mayhem. Is this Canabalt clone worthy of sinking all of your precious time? Or are you better off running in temples and going on joyrides with jetpacks??
When I first loaded up Save Them All, I was immediately turned off by the graphics. They brought me back to the days when I used to play user-created games on Newgrounds. But I looked past all that and started the story, where I was met with a really craptastic comic-style intro. Frankly, it looked like a bored anime fan tried to create a manga on Microsoft Paint with their eyes closed. I groaned, I sighed, and I gave it a chance. An hour or two later, I was glad that I did.
Save Them All takes place during what seems like the mother of all apocalypses. Not only is there massive seismic activity, but aliens are flying around looking to abduct people, the dead have risen and are unreasonably swift, meteors are raining down on the innocent, and someone is launching an inordinate amount of nukes. In the middle of all this chaos is your character, who wakes up in a room buck naked with perfectly spiky hair and no clue who he is. He finds some clothes, jumps out of the window, and hits the ground running. So now it's your amnesiac hero versus the end of days and the tops of a lot of buildings.
It's a good thing that you're equipped with more than just perfectly-coifed bedhead and a cool trench coat. As you continue the story, you will unlock a host of super powers to help you survive all of the rooftop running madness. Not only does your nameless character have ridiculous jumping abilities that would make anyone in the NBA jealous, but he can also stomp down to make shockwaves and punch the blood out of zombies. As you progress, you'll unlock cooler powers like the passive ability to slow down time whenever meteors and nuclear missiles are aimed at your face. My personal favorite was a power called Vortex that brings all of the precious energy orbs that fuel your powers straight to you. As long as your energy bar is topped off, you'll be able to use your entire suite of abilities. With these tools, you can take on the horrors that are precipitating on the world and save all of those people running on rooftops from giant zombies, earthquakes, and alien abductions.
Every time you unlock a power in Story mode, it will become available in Endless mode. And since the story won't take you very long to run through (no pun, I swear), you'll be well-equipped to handle some truly infinite running. The major differences between the Story and Endless modes are the powers you have unlocked and how effective they are. You start out Endless mode as a blank slate, devoid of any abilities or augmentations, so expect to die a lot and frequently. The number of people you save acts as currency, letting you spend "lives" to upgrade your powers and buy utilities like resurrections or a full bar of energy when you start playing. Endless mode is considerably tougher than Story mode because you're not as powerful and you start out with very little energy. But if you complete objectives, such as "dodge 5 nukes" or "destroy 50 zombies with power smash", you will level up and gain more starting energy. And every time you start another run, a clock will count down how long it is until midnight. This is because the game keeps a daily running total of how many lives players around the world have saved. It might give you a little incentive to power up and make sure that number increases daily.
Despite the subpar graphics, Save Them All is a pretty cool game and an awesome exercise in wasting time the fun way. I think part of the reason I love endless runner games is because I can vicariously run forever without my heart rate skyrocketing, like when I do cardio in real life. Save Them All gives me all the fun I get out of games like Canabalt and gives me some pretty kick-ass powers as a bonus. But perhaps the best thing about the game is the custom soundtrack feature. You can load up to 50 tracks from your personal music library and, depending on the music you choose, it amps the action up considerably. My suggestion? Just loop The Black Key's "Howlin' For You" and you will feel like such a boss with every jump.