Run & Stampy
Have you ever been in a stampede? It’s not very nice, I can assure you. It happens to me every new year when I head to the Ikea boxing day sales. We’re talking about hundreds of people pressed against a door the size of a baby safety gate foaming at the mouth to get in the store. It’s like a scene from a zombie movie. If you manage to survive that lot without fracturing a few choice bones, good luck to you.
So yes my friends, having been in a few close-call crushes in my time (the bargains were worth it though), I was eager to see if ‘Stampede 3D’ lived up to it’s billing as ‘the world’s premier stampede simulator’. Yes, I made that up. I really just wanted to see if it was a decent game.
You play as an unnamed hero (one of three – the other two unlockable as you progress) who has managed to steal a valuable rune from the middle of a dense forest. Seemingly happy with his lot, and not suspicious that a massive gem has been left completely unguarded in a forest clearing, he’s about to trot off when all manner of creatures decide it’s a great time to play tag with each other. Your job, naturally, is to get the heck out the way.
It’s a 3D actioner viewed from above. After grabbing the rune at the start of each level (just how many runes are there in this forest?) you’re given a moment to compose yourself before the tusks of a thousand beasts attempt to become acquainted with your soft posterior. You avoid these reckless animals by tapping in the direction you’d like to run as they crowd onto the screen.
Note that you can’t actually run away. Each level is self contained, so unlike an endless runner (a genre that may have suited this game better thematically speaking), you’re only dodging the animals until the timer runs down and you’ve been judged to have survived the level. This raises two questions, one, if two-tonne rhino-esque things are running at you, why wouldn’t you run as far away as possible, and two, do I really need to be using words like ‘Thematic’ in this review?
Unfortunately the sense of chaos you’d expect is lacking due to sluggish character movement during gameplay. I don’t know about you, but if I was caught in the middle of an improptu Rhino fun-run, I’d scarper at 100mph, our hero appears to think he’s popping to the corner shop for a pint of milk – all casual, no urgency. It’s probably a visual issue more than raw speed – a few subtle animations highlighting a bit of desperation, a frantic wave of the arms, eyes popping out of head, that kind of thing -could’ve gone a long way. It also doesn’t help that your character will occasionally bop in directions you don’t want.
Visually it’s pretty…er pretty with Unreal Engine powered 3D graphics and it’s strongest point – an edgy toon art style which is especially effective during the cut scenes and menu screens, but the main game exhibits a distinct lack of shading and lighting giving it an overexposed, unfinished look. The game world and stampeding animals are interesting to look at, the shaking screen effect is a nice touch while they thunder across your path, and the way you can trigger environmental traps in later stages is a nice touch, so there’s a decent foundation here, it just needs a bit of building on to make it really come alive.
The music however, is beyond saving. You’d think a game like this which has clear thematic (whoops) influences from anime and has a mystical/magical bent to it would have an appropriate soundtrack which mixes modern and ethereal sounds for effect. Now I’m all one for subversion, but the soundtrack here is lazy, uninspired and clearly doesn’t fit the subject matter. It’s a generic electronic thing ripped from a 90’s arcade game. After the impressive art style, it comes as a major turn off.
‘Stampede 3D’ is a decent attempt, but the foundation of the game is sadly a little humdrum and lacks a certain dynamism that would make it as exciting as it should be. Its mechanics need polish and the ill-suited music doesn’t do it any favours either. Definitely preferable to being crushed to death at Ikea though, so there’s always that.
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