Run Indiana Jones Style with Cave Run on iDevices

“Runner” platforming games, such as Chop Chop Runner, are now popular on both the iPhone and iPad. The latest,  Cave Run from Ravenous Games, is for both Apple devices. Free for a limited time, we discovered the game through Apple’s free application charts a week or so ago.

As a genre of simple mechanics, runner games typically need a secondary mechanic to be really fun and addictive. Cave Run incorporates obstacle avoidance and coin collecting, but these are pretty standard additions. Overall, Cave Run “plays it safe”, leaving nothing memorable about it.

You control a cartoon Indiana Jones (well, it looks like Indiana Jones anyway) and must try to “escape” a cave. Of course, “escape” is just a wordr. Anyone who has played runner games knows there is no actual ending. You run from left to right with speed gradually increasing and various pitfalls and obstacles in your path. The objective is to travel as far as possible before dying.

With Cave Run, the only control is the jumping mechanic which, predictably, is done by tapping the screen and holding it down for a higher jump as your Indy wannabe flaps his arms in a vain attempt to stay afloat. With each play through, the level changes, but the game play isn’t all that difficult. Very rarely do you run into any difficult jumps (usually, the platforms are pretty big), and only occasionally were the obstacles difficult to avoid.

As we mentioned earlier, secondary mechanics are what often make these running, platformer games unique and fun, though level design is important too. In Cave Run, the secondary mechanic is merely avoiding obstacles. Compared to shooting zombies in Monster Dash or using ninja-powers in NinJump, Cave Run feels far less gratifying.

From rocks, to lava pits, to ice, none of the obstacles feel all that dangerous. When you hit one, you merely stumble or slip. Aside from the lava pits, you only lose control of your runner for about a second and a half, but since the platforms tend to be large, this rarely causes you a problem. The only obstacle that feels scary is the lava —  it sends the avatar screaming into the air for three or four seconds with a flaming backside, and sometimes sends it right down into a pit.

You also collect coins. However, they do nothing but augment your score at the end. In  running platformers, the distance traveled is the “high score,” and a secondary score seems completely arbitrary. Additionally, as you travel and collect coins, you also reach the “next level.” All that changes in the next level is the background hue, and once again, the final score.

Integrated with OpenFeint, players can participate in more than just achievements, as three leaderboards measure total score, distance traveled, and coins. The only other social mechanic is to share high scores via Facebook or Twitter.

Stylistically, Cave Run is adequate, but not exciting. It looks alright, but is basic and hardly a visual feast of effects and animations like Chop Chop Runner. Other than a few hue changes, Cave Run looks the same throughout.

Currently free, Cave Run has been attracting some attention to appear on Apple’s free application chart, but will apparently have a price tag in the near future. In its current form, the game isn’t worth paying for; there are just better runner games to be found.