A New Spin on Rhythm with Tune Runner

Tune Runner,from Appy Entertainment, has a new take on rhythm games for the iPhone and iPod touch, that makes good use of the devices’ touch controls, and music collections.

For the record, this is not a terribly complex application, but for the low, low price of “free,” it’s certainly a nice one to have. Players control — sort of — a music loving robot called Groov-EE. The objective is to reach the end of a song without him “dying.”

Essentially, players are able to pick a music track from their own collection of songs on their iPhone of iPod touch, and a level is generated based on the length of the track. From here, Groov-EE starts running and a handful of shapes will come scrolling off from the left. The idea is to draw the shape, using your finger, before Groov-EE runs into it. If the shape is drawn incorrectly or too slowly, the poor little robot will stumble and lose a chunk of health. If successful, he will perform a mini dance number, while running, and regain health.

Unfortunately, Tune Runner doesn’t seem to be a true, blue rhythm game. The approaching symbols just do not seem like they actually display with the beat of the track being played. Nonetheless, they do tend to increase in speed and frequency towards the end of a song or during a crescendo moment. Perhaps it is coincidence; perhaps not. Even if they do, the rate in which someone draws is different for everyone, so making that fall into the right beat is nearly impossible.

Regardless, each song creates a unique level and watching Groov-EE performing the worm or the moonwalk really does leave you with a smile.

In addition to the core play, each song has its own global scoring and leaderboard system, effectively adding a competitive element to a simple game. In fact, having individual leaderboards for personal songs significantly improves this feature, because it adds a bit of relevance to competing. Furthermore, since you can issue challenges directly to friends, it allows you to compete with songs you like, rather than songs that a game gives you or asks you to buy.

Of course, that isn’t to say that Tune Runner doesn’t ask you to buy songs. On the contrary, if you’re not looking to play one of your songs, the only free song it gives you is Hallucinations by Angels & Airwaves, and you will have to buy everything else you want to play. This is convenient enough, as you can make the purchases directly from within the app and can even see what songs are currently featured and which ones have had the most plays.

Using the OpenFeint social platform, Tune Runner also has a few more social features. There is another set of OpenFeint leaderboards based on your overall score, which is compiled from every level completed (at the end of each tune you gain X amount of points), as well as a ton of achievements. Unfortunately, most of the achievements are numerical in the sense that they ask for “Draw 5 Shapes in a Row,” then draw 10, 15, 20, etc.

The only real complaint to be had with Tune Runner is the lack of rhythm involved. Granted, the game is truly amusing, but there is something to be said about games like Tap Tap Revenge or Rock Band. These games play music in synch with each tap or hit note, thus making the player feel like they are creating the music. Furthermore, there are only four symbols to draw: O, Z, 7, ^. After a while, this gets a bit repetitive, and the game’s novelty does wear a bit thin.

Nevertheless, Tune Runner is a pretty interesting game and certainly worth a play. The cost is free, unless you want the version with no advertisements, so there is little reason not to. Also, the fact that it lets you use your music adds a very personal element to the game, and the combined leaderboard feature for each individual song lets you compete with friends over what matters to you. We can only hope, that more iPhone developers come up with equally creative concepts, in the future.