Chances are if you own an iOS device, you’ve played a runner game. From Temple Run to Jetpack Joyride, the genre and platform are a perfect match with short, sharp, pick-up-and-play sessions lending themselves perfectly to gaming on the go. Does Sky Hero, the latest offering from mobile publishing giants Chillingo, offer anything new to the genre to really stand out from the crowd?
To answer briefly; no. Not really. For those who haven’t played the game type before, runner games all offer the same basic premise. Players must navigate through an endless level, avoiding obstacles and collecting coins. These coins can then be used to buy upgrades and power-ups, making long-distance scores progressively more do-able. Think a suped-up version on the classic Helictoper flash game. Everything expected from the genre is present in Sky Hero, so nothing revolutionary here.
Sky Hero does have one innovative feature, as the game will change dependant on where and what time you are playing. It’s certainly a neat addition, although one that is mainly aesthetic. Most weather changes (such as day and night time) will just change the background, though wind has a slight effect on game play as it gently blows the player from side to side.
The game’s story though is certainly a unique one, though it is as strange as it is fresh. Like many other runner games very little story is given within the game itself, bar a very short (and utterly confusing) intro video. A look to the game’s official site explains all, although like a season finale of Lost it offers more questions than answers. You play as John, a soldier jumping off a tower and escaping from a sneak attack, accomplishing your General’s last will of saving your honour. Things get even stranger when you consider the odd-job ensemble of baddies attacking comprise of moustachioed barrels, angry cannon balls, helicopter-hot wearing balls of spikes and birds carrying saws. Quite why they want to attack your fortress is a mystery, as is why they are led by an evil-looking giant fireball that is chasing John down the sky.
Gameplay is, as would be expected, pick-up-and-play easy-peasy, touching either left or right of the screen to move side to side. Tilt controls are available, although they don’t offer the precision of the touch alternative. If your hero John hits two objects in quick succession, it’s game over as the angry fireball catches up and kills you. Although the screen can become laden with obstacles, Sky Hero is slightly forgiving as any on-screen enemies will disappear when you are hit.
At first the game appears hectic at first as things fly at you from all angles. Each enemy type though has a specific movement pattern and once those have been figured out, avoiding them and progressing further down the fortress becomes a lot easier .
Coins are scattered through each level, which are used to buy and upgrade special powers, items and costumes. These powers, such as armour that makes John immune to enemies for a short while or a cannonball that powers him down the sky, certainly make high-scores easier to come by. The main problem, though, is their cost. Early on, each game racks up about 300-400 coins. The shop items, however, range between 2,500 and 10,000, making them unobtainable without numerous run-throughs (or, for the short of patience types, there are in-game purchases available).
The cumulative distance John falls is recorded, which periodically unlocks bonuses for the player to use. These range from the very useful powers, saving buying them from the shop, to an almost insultingly small amount of coins (the first two are 200 and 500). There are also 30 ‘missions’ in Sky Hero, score-boosting objectives which will be a familiar concept to any runner game fans.
Graphically Sky Hero is a great looking game, with sharp visuals and good animations. The level themes are well designed, although this often leads to being counter-productive. What was going on in the background is often a distraction, making it difficult to dodge obstacles when the enemies are coming thick and fast.
Upon release there are only two levels on offer, with one locked from the get go. To play it, John must fall a total of 100km, certainly no easy feat when most runs will be between 1-3km. The level, thankfully, is worth the wait as it introduces new enemy types with different movement patterns, as well as the visual and audio change.
Sky Hero is by no means a bad game, in fact it’s a fairly good one. Once you’ve played it enough to unlock a few of the power-ups it becomes a lot more enjoyable and addictive. However, with so many more refined runner games out there, Sky Hero does little to really entice players to give it a go.
+ Good, bright, retina display graphics
+ Unique enemy designs
– Background detail can be distracting
+ Simple to pick up and play
– Upgrades take far too long to save up for
– Nothing new or revolutionary
+Sounds work well with each level
– Can get repetitive