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Review: RunGunJumpGun – brutal two-button platformer

RunGunJumpGun, as you may have guessed, is a game about running, gunning, and jumping. And then gunning some more.

Price: $2.99/£2.29
Version: 1.0.1
Size: 264 MB
Developer: Gambitious
Platform: iPhone / iPad


Like many mobile platformers, the running part is handled automatically as your character rushes mercilessly forward with no apparent regard for the surrounding danger. Meanwhile, your choice is a simple one: do you want to point your gun forward, or downward? Pressing the right half of the screen shoots bullets forward in a steady stream, blasting obstacles and enemies out of your path, while tapping the left side points the barrel towards the floor, using the gun as a kind of rocket-propelled jetpack to launch the player skyward.


Shooting downwards in bursts allows you to essentially fly through each level

The genius – and the challenge – is in the fact that you can’t do the two at once. You can either RunGun or JumpGun at any given moment, and the game constantly asks you to weigh up the two priorities: aggression or evasion? Only by balancing the two actions can you complete each level, and that’s much easier said than done. It’s a fast-paced platformer that throws you in at the deep end, with barrages of fireballs and circular saws setting the tone early on. The tap-to-hover mechanic is a familiar iOS staple, but it works well: think Flappy Bird if it was even harder and the bird had a massive gun. Congratulations! You’ve just imagined this game.

The 120+ levels are a quick-fire affair, punctuated by one-line cutscenes and each lasting just 20 seconds or so. That’s if you succeed on your first attempt, though, which is highly unlikely – these stages are tough. Don’t let the simple touchscreen controls fool you: this is a hardcore action platformer requiring quick wits and perseverance. The level design is excellent throughout though, and once you get a feel for the game’s physics it becomes a little easier to avoid the many, many deadly objects in your proximity.


The frantic cutscenes paint a picture of a solar system on the brink of destruction

Luckily it only takes half a second to re-spawn if you mess up, as you’re magically jettisoned back to the start of the level to give it another go. The developers also made the wise choice of making it possible to skip levels if they become too frustrating. At the other end of the scale, there are plenty of collectibles – called Atomiks – strewn throughout each level, and trying to grab the lot of them adds a whole new level of difficulty to the equation. High-score chasers and sadists alike will be pleased to see the inclusion of Marathon Mode, in which you race through 40 consecutive levels in an bid to stake a claim on the online leaderboards.


Mess up, and you’re quickly restored to the start to try again

Each of the three game worlds has a unique feel, introducing new challenges just as you start to get comfortable with the old ones. Screen-wrapping teleportation and physics-altering underwater sections are a fun inversion of the standard controls and force you to rethink your approach to the levels again and again. Though the game is difficult, the design of these challenges is smart and will gradually teach you new skills.

One thing that was annoying for a game centered heavily around improving and perfecting your scores: there doesn’t seem to be any access to Game Center. Though you’re given a ranking on completion of Marathon Mode, there’s no context and no way to see other players’ scores. Access to full rankings and unlockable achievements would certainly improve the game’s replay value.


One of three galactic systems full of unique levels

RunGunJumpGun has a very unique style, combining a vibrant color palette with retro character sprites that look straight out of the nineties. The pumping, pulsating soundtrack is a great match for the twitchy gameplay and fits well with the visuals. The presentation is glorious, the controls simple and the gameplay frustratingly addictive. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but fans of platform games should find a lot to enjoy here.