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I'm still not a convert to iOS gaming, or the mobile scene at large. There are a few exceptions: addictive, though ultimately-shallow experiences that keep me hooked for a few hours but – in most cases – fail to deliver the responsive controls and sumptuous visuals typical of games found on dedicated gaming consoles. When I play an iOS game, it's often because it's been recommended to me by a friend, or – in the case of Temple Run – a game journalist I follow on Twitter. Imangi Studios delivered this strikingly-ugly app towards the end of 2011 and it's already enjoyed a great deal of success. Does Temple Run live up to Dan Ryckert's claim that it is "Jetpack Joyride done right"?
The short answer is no. No, it's not as charming as Jetpack Joyride. It isn't as addictive as Halfbrick's sidescrolling score attacker. Its meta-game isn't as all-consuming and Guy Dangerous is no Barry Steakfries. That being said, Temple Run is built on some solid mechanics and is well worth the non-existent price of admission (read: it's free).
In your average run you'll be swiping to jump over and slide under obstacles as well as follow the treacherous path along the temple walls. You tilt your device to move to the left or right of your current path to pick up coins. If you clip any non-lethal obstcales, a pack of demonic monkeys will give chase for a limited amount of time. Most traps and falls, however, are deadly and require genuine focus to avoid when you hit full flight. You can collect power-ups that can turn you invisible, speed you up, or turn you into a coin magnet. It's simple stuff, but it can really pull you in after a few good attempts.
Collecting coins adds to your score and also acts as currency for the in-game store where you can buy new skins, single-use items, and upgrades to power-ups that you come across randomly in each of your runs. You can choose to buy additional coins (as in with real money), so this allows paying players to make their way up the leaderboard much faster than the frugal gamer. This is because certain power-ups and buffs serve to multiply the value of coins or make them easier to collect. You could buy your way to success to an extent in Jetpack Joyride as well, but a lot of the purchasable items in that game were either cosmetic or single use; thus a high score in Temple Run can effectively be bought.
As I've previously mentioned, the presentation of Temple Run is below par (read: it looks like fresh hell). The frame rate on the iPad 2 never falters, but I did notice the odd stutter when I played on an iPhone 4. The visual hitches I encountered on the handset version weren't enough to throw me off a high score, so it's a usually fluid – if not foul-looking – visual experience. The soundtrack is just plain obnoxious, so I'd recommend either playing your own music over the game or just muting it all together.
For the record: One of three
It may not be the prettiest game ever made, but Temple Run provides hours of fun with an addictive score attack formula and reasonably-responsive controls. There may not be much motivation to continue playing short of taunting your friends as you journey up the leaderboards, but there is some satisfaction to be found in boasting about your best score via Twitter. As it turns out, I'm not very good at Temple Run, but it's still an easy game to recommend. Besides it's free, what more motivation do you need?