Review: Mr. Runner 2: The Masks

Mr. Runner 2: The Masks is the sequel to Mr. Runner, which has been downloaded more than five million times. I played Mr. Runner 2 on my iPhone 4; it is not meant to be played on an iPad.

Check out the launch trailer:

Zing Games is an indie company that was established in 2011 by industry veterans Ding Ye and Zhan Ye with the goal of creating original games for emerging platforms. The company created Mr. Runner 2: The Masks as a love letter to the gamer generation. “Everyone’s had a dream in which who they are and what is going on keeps randomly changing,” said Ding Ye, Founder and Creative Director. “We wanted to bring that crazy dream world logic to Mr. Runner 2: The Masks. This game not only has the frantic excitement of a continuous running platformer, but players should have a blast spotting icons from video games, movies, and television they loved as children.”

Plot

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“The main character in Mr. Runner 2: The Masks awakens to find his face locked away behind a steel mask.  Unable to remember who he is, the character must pursue an enigmatic figure through a weird and wonderful dream world populated by figments of his subconscious. Each time the player escapes death, fragments from his memory surface, and a new ‘face’ appears on his mask but then fades away. Unfortunately, all his brain pulls up are images of everything from classic video game characters to superheroes.”

As an endless runner/platformer, this game is obviously less about plot and more about gameplay, but getting locked into the face box definitely caught my attention and made me want to figure out what was underneath and why I had been locked up. As you progress through the game and unlock more levels, you also unlock more representations of the people who worked on the game – from that point on, they will just hang out in the main menu. Presumably at the end, you will find out who you really are under the mask (I feel like it has something to do with the people you meet along the way), but I haven’t gotten there yet.

Graphics and Sound

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Mr. Runner 2 is SO COLORFUL! It’s really pleasant to look at, and the graphics are crisp. I didn’t run into any slowdown at all on my iPhone 4, which was great. In all the time playing it, I only had one crash back to the home screen. You can change the costume/mask of your character as you unlock different masks, and the loading screens will reflect your choice, which I thought was a nice touch. There are four different worlds, two of which I have unlocked, and they are pretty different from each other – one is set in a grassy field, and one is set near an ocean. There are five different worlds to unlock, and they each have eight levels. I wish that there had been a little more variety within worlds, or fewer levels per world, because it starts to get tedious to run through a grassy field for the umpteenth time.

The music stays the same in each world, so it’s repetitive  but it’s not too annoying or intrusive. Sound effects are fine; grabbing coins sounds a little like grabbing them in Mario games. There is no dialogue beyond some sounds from your character (e.g. the occasional joyful “Yo yo yo!”), but he will say things in word bubbles when he successfully dodges. There are a few typos in the loading screen tips, but it’s not really a big deal; they aren’t prevalent, and reading is not a centralized component of this game.

Gameplay

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Mr. Runner 2 is really easy to pick up, but a little more difficult to get the hang of. Each level consists of some kind of obstacle falling from the sky that will crush your character if you don’t find a safe spot (either a gap in the obstacle or a pit). You are constantly on the run, and all you are able to do is speed him up by tapping the right half of the screen (which uses up your limited stamina) or slow him down to a walk with a tap on the left side. I’m more cautious, so initially, I tried to not use the speed up option. However, I quickly learned not to be stingy with it – it can get you out of tight spots, even if you think you won’t make it! The speed up option also comes in handy during “boss fights.” I put that in quotes because you don’t really get to fight them – they just chase you and you have to outrun them until they get tired.

The only drawback (and some might see this as more of a challenge) is that I am finding some levels pretty difficult to get through. It’s a good casual game to put down and then come back to later to see if you can approach it in a different way. You can also replay older levels to try to improve your star rating, which isn’t measured by how many points you get or any sort of skill/finesse, but rather by literally collecting the three stars in a level. When they start bouncing, it gets tricky!

There are a total of fifty-four masks to unlock and five different costumes to buy. The masks are generally pop-culture references. So far, I have (in addition to the default steel box with lock) a spartan helmet, a red Angry Bird, Charlie Chaplin, a football helmet, a luchador mask, a kraken with an eyepatch, a paper bag with the eyes cut out, Santa, a slime from Dragon Quest, and a zombie from Plants vs. Zombies. When you successfully dodge the obstacles falling from the sky, you will briefly don a “cosplay costume” – some of these include Michael Jackson, Superman, a sunflower from Plants vs. Zombies, and what I’m pretty sure is The Bride from Kill Bill. The game constantly made me smile when I unlocked something new.

In-app purchases are present, but pretty unintrusive. You can very easily play without buying any in-app purchases, and the game does not constantly harass you or make you feel like you can’t progress without them. The most it prods you to use real money to buy something is when you die and are out of revival potions, but you can just restart the level or go back to the main menu instead.

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Part of the main menu.

I really liked the main menu, which is kind of an odd thing to like. Instead of a standard menu, your character runs through an endless loop of a castle hallway that contains a bunch of different things – world selections, the store, characters running around, your stats, your inventory (which consists of chests and keys to open those chests), a slot machine, an advertisement that will give you thirty coins for looking at it, a way to re-watch the movies you’ve seen so far, and a way to change your mask. There is also a mysterious locked door that just says “Coming soon” when you click on it. The whole main menu is kind of like a mini-game – it’s pretty cool.

Final Verdict

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Score: B+

Mr. Runner 2: The Masks is a colorful, charming iOS game that is easy to pick up and play in short bursts, but you also could easily get sucked in for an hour or two. The difficulty level might discourage you, but I found myself returning to the game despite losing levels, and persistence eventually pays off.

Pick up the game on the App Store for $0.99!

[Disclaimer: A review code was provided for me to review this game.]

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