Running to the right is highly popular nowadays, almost as popular as jumping up. To stand out from the crowd new additions are needed, and in the case of Rogue Runner you get a mixture of Canabalt and Metal Slug. This sounds like a really interesting synergy, but alas what would be a running platform shooter on steroids suffers from a couple of identity issues.
You get two buttons to control the highly trained super soldier: jump and fire. The fire button could just as well have been left out, as you have to fire constantly. The most important button that isn’t all about tapping rapidly is the jump button. Jumping is quite uneven, and it tries to be analogue but to no avail. It feels a bit random, and often the small jumps become big and the other way around. It is also easy to miss the area of the jump button, as it disappears once the game gets going.
Survival is what Rogue Runner is all about, and there is a constant barrage of aliens, secret agents, helicopters and UFOs attacking you. Crashing into an enemy, and missing a platform equals death. With three lives you simply respawn from above dropping back in the action. If your vehicle drops down between platforms it reappears right away without loss of life. I found this respawn mechanic to be highly annoying, and quite frankly survival running games with extra lives feels somewhat poorly paced. Just the name of the genre hints at there being only one life.
I like the Metal Slug graphics a lot, but there is one thing that really bothers me. Both vehicles have cannons pointed at a 45 degree angle, but when you fire the shots emerge from the hood instead. The sound effects are ok, but since you fire all the time it starts to become quite repetitive quickly. No music, but you can play your own and keep the sound effects. Another thing that I am missing is an option menu, or at least some other way to turn off the vibrate function of the iPhone. This is used when starting a new game, and when your vehicle crashes into a mountain.
Just like other survival running games Rogue Runner can become quite addictive. The developer keeps updating the game, and has added some cool powerups such as rockets. I would like to have a single life survival mode to complement the three lives plus last chance original mode. OpenFeint is integrated to give you online leaderboards, but so far achievements are not included.
Rogue Runner can be really fun if you get into it. I found the controls somewhat unresponsive, and the respawning from above felt strange. If you are a fan of Metal Slug, and have already given up on the original for iPhone definitely get Rogue Runner. I prefer to have either a survival runner game or a platform shooter, but I still respect the developer for trying to combine the two. At a buck I can still recommend you are into quick survival games.
Rogue Runner $0.99
Seller: Glowdot Productions, Inc.
Tested on an iPhone 4.