You only have to look at the disappointing sales of Super Mario Run to know that the endless runner genre doesn’t always succeed. Despite the fact they used to thrive on iPad, when the moustachioed king of the platformer struggles, you know it may be a sign of a format getting tired. It’s not hard to see why. We all remember those sections from platformers, being forced to run forward while the level scrolls, losing if you can’t keep up. And how many of us came away saying that those were our favourite levels? None. We all hated them and let out an anxious groan when they loaded.
But maybe we just weren’t expecting that from Mario and rivals? Given the right setting, fast pace, and plenty of variety and the runner game can be a thrilling, heart-pounding experience. ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun is just that. It’ll have you clutching your Joy-Con so hard you’ll be afraid you’ll leave permanent marks. But don’t worry, you’ll have no regrets that you’ve voided your warranty.
ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun might sound like a nonsense name, but it does exactly as it says on the tin. The character you control runs forward automatically, you press the R Button to shoot your gun, and hold the L Button to point it downward to jump (with single-handed controls also available, it’s also disability friendly). You’ll run, gun, jump and gun, not always in that order. In fact, it’s so fast-paced, that when you first start a level you’ll be frantically pressing both, trying to avoid obstacles.
Your task is to get through the short levels, collecting as many Atomix as you can on the way. You move forward fast, but in your way are a variety of obstacles that’ll stop you in your tracks. Spikes, saws, flamethrowers that trail your movement, and later, ships that fire at you. You’ll have to contend with multiple at once, and trying to focus on them all will make your head spin. Two hits and you fly back to the beginning, a stylish rainbow trail flowing behind you, and start again in a flash. It’s a brutal feeling when you can see the finish in sight, only to be dragged all the way to the beginning. But you’ll face it again, because, man, is it addictive.
The key, like so many games, is to follow the rhythms and pattern of the course so it becomes muscle memory, trying to get it a little better each time until you perfect your run and collect all the Atomix. It sounds easy in theory, but it’s actually a gargantuan challenge. It’s tough enough to get through to the end of level, and collecting all the Atomix on the way requires you to think and move flawlessly. With 120 levels, and with the number of Atomix ranging from around 5-12 in each, it should take you some time if you’re up for the job.
Each level is superbly designed, offering different obstacles in interesting ways, and each world introduces new hurdles for you to get your head around. Just when you thought you’d gotten used to things, the game changes up before it gets the chance to get stale. You may hate the game for it, screaming, ‘impossible!’ at the screen. It’ll introduce something like the ability to go scroll up from the top to the bottom of the screen, meaning the shape of the course is tough in a new way.
All world is visually new and interesting, too. In fact, the whole game buzzes with personality. ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun’s setting is a psychedelic, retro-future world with a colour scheme rich in bright neon and bold colours. The gorgeous visuals pop off the screen whether portable or docked. But a word of warning, there are a lot of flashing images. It’s kind of its thing.
Between each level there are tiny cut-scenes from one of a cast of unique aliens, making witty comments on proceedings. These crazy characters aren’t really needed – they don’t make the story make much more sense – but they add some humour and are a great chance to show off the excellent skill of the game’s artists.
Even though you’re hurtling through the levels, you’ll appreciate the package. Clever levels, obstacles and enemies, all polished with visual splendour and pumping music, ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun is designed to a tee. And if you’re after every Atomix, it’s a hefty challenge that’ll take you some time. You will feel physically and mentally exhausted, but you will not stop playing. We promise you this – your pulse will be raised.