Whenever my editor doles out review assignments for the week, my crest falls anytime I see a game with the word “Runner” in the title hovering below my name in the email. Maybe I’m suffering from runner game exhaustion. Like anyone who has taken on a marathon, I’ve hit the wall when it comes to running games and not sure I can take another game where I have to jump and avoid things to make it as far as I can. Will Mr. Runner 2: The Masks save my from my exhaustion or give me a second wind enthusiasm for running games? Damned if I know. Let’s find out.

The original Mr. Runner game was a sparsely styled title with simple controls. It was an enjoyable little game for you to spend a few minutes playing. Mr. Runner 2: The Masks tosses out simplicity for a confusing bevy of upgrades powerups, coins, in-app purchases, and a menu screen, while charming at first, makes you want to smash the touchscreen on your phone.

The setup is this: Your character has his face stolen by some evil doer and you must chase down this bad guy in order to recover your beautiful facade. This is all laid out for you in the opening cinematic of the game which is quite charming. This then melds into the main menu where we run straight into our first roadblock to enjoyment.

It seems that the developers were trying to be a bit clever when designing the main menu. In theory, it sounds pretty good. In practice, it is just annoying. Every time the menu loads, you have to wait for your little guy to run slowly to the point where you can tap on the menu icon. If you miss it, you have to wait until he runs all the way around again. If you get distracted at the right time, you can end up spending more time in the menu than in any of the levels. A simple fix would have been to streamline the menu system to have it fixed on the screen and character running around the bottom. A little compromise would have made it more efficient.

At least the controls are simple. Your character runs at a preset speed which is somewhat slow. Your only control options are to hold the left side of the screen to slow him almost to a stop, or press the right to make him sprint for the finish. The catch is that you need to avoid the occasional descent of obstacles like splashes of water or cavern ceilings. In a genre that is based mostly around running and jumping, it is a bit refreshing to add something a bit different into the mix. But, while it does add something slightly fresh, it quickly becomes stale after a few playthroughs.

A shining beacon of awesome in this game emanates from the aesthetics. The developers really took their time to create some inventive and engaging graphics for Mr. Runner 2. It is a smorgasbord of color and shape only rivaled by some of the best games of the App Store. For some reason, I kept thinking about Katamari Damacy when playing this game. It seems to have the same, “What the hell, why not?” design ethos. And that is fantastic! All of the masks you can unlock are wonderfully referential to pop culture and the little phrases your character burst out with are enjoyable.

But where Katamari keeps it simple, Mr. Runner 2 bombards you with tons of needlessly complicated upgrades. In each level you can collect trunks of treasure. In order to open them, you need to collect keys. But do the keys open the trunks at the end of the level? No, you have to tap through a menu system get them open. It felt like cracking a safe only to find a few digital coins.

Finally we come to in-app purchases. Groan away, because you know what is coming. Yes, Mr. Runner 2 falls into the trap of pushing in-app purchases in your face. It isn’t done too much, but just enough to make your hackles rise.

A few things that would make this a better game would be the addition of jumping and sliding to your arsenal of dodging abilities. It would add some verticality to the gameplay and make quick dodges easier. Just a flick up or down would do it. A reworking of the main menu would be a nice touch as well. I can’t help but feel that the developers spent a bit too much time designing the game and let the actual gameplay fall by the wayside. While an interesting spin on the formula, there isn’t really much behind the mask of Mr. Runner 2: The Masks.


Store Link: Mr. Runner 2: The Masks for iPhone | By GameVision | Price: $0.99 | Version: 1.0.0 | 33.9 MB | Rating 9+

6.5 out of 10 arcade sushi rating