Developed By: Katata Games
Published By: Fantastico Studio
Category: Action, Arcade, Endless Runner, Platformer
Release Date: 02.12.20
I love it when a game just sneaks up, grabs your attention, and won’t let go. I sometimes feel like there’s an endless stream of generic endless runners and games looking to trade on cheap nostalgia instead of any sort of substance, and at first glance I was afraid Top Run for the Nintendo Switch would fall into one or both of those categories. While it certainly fits perfectly inside the endless runner mold it is anything but generic, and while it is heavily reliant on 80s nostalgia for its aesthetic it certainly doesn’t feel cheap.
The mechanics of the game are pretty simple, and pretty familiar to endless runner fans. You take the role of Kevin, an 80’s kid, and just automatically run to the right. There are three levels to the track, and you have to jump and/or double jump between them to collect bits of currency and avoid enemies or other occasional obstacles, such as when the floor turns to lava. It happens more than you’d think; it was a huge epidemic in the 80s. For real. Don’t look it up. Anyway, in addition to running endlessly, Kevin can throw floppy disks at his enemies to destroy them instead of going around them. Your ammo stock is set at three, but it automatically regenerates after a short period.
You’ve got a couple of options for ways to power Kevin up if that’s not enough for you. First, you can collect items like a magnetic hoverboard, a force field generated around your dog Buddy, an ice cream cone that freezes all your enemies, or a disk that shoots three disks instead of one. Second, you can rescue one of Kevin’s three friends and use their special attack. Darryl shoots a stream of fireballs from his Powerglove, Joy unleashes a massive telekinetic wave, and Ben spin dashes like Sonic the Hedgehog. It all fits seamlessly together to create an addictive game that I sank three hours into before I knew what had happened.
Run Up the Score
You gain points in two ways; one is to just stay alive. You get points for every step you take, and they rack up pretty fast that way making it the best way to run up your score. You also get points for killing enemies; the harder an enemy is to kill, the more points you get. My best tip is to save up your friends’ special abilities and use them whenever one of the bigger fish enters the screen. You’re welcome. There are three difficulty levels (Normal, Hardcore, and Rage) and the greater the difficulty the faster the score goes up. In addition to collecting points and bits, you’ve also got three tasks to accomplish at any time. Completing a task gets you experience points, and as you level up you can unlock new difficulty levels and furniture for your virtual apartment. The apartment doesn’t do anything but look cool and let you play a Space Invaders clone, but it’s a cool extra nonetheless.
The pixel art graphics on display in Top Run are super tight, sharp, and look great. The game adds scanlines to put it over the top in terms of nostalgic design. There are only two background types to choose from; one is a very 80s-inspired city complete with video stores and arcades, and the other is inspired by old-school computer operating systems. They both look great. Kevin and Buddy each have over twenty skins. Buddy’s skins are entirely cosmetic, but if you want to run with a wolf or a pug this is your chance. Kevin’s skins are, uh, let’s call them homages to lots of classic 80s properties. Add in the super-80s synthwave soundtrack by artist Beckett and you’ve got the total package in terms of 80s nostalgia-fueled retro-pixel gaming art design.
You Can’t Pet the Dog
I can’t believe how much fun I had playing Top Run while writing this review. Everything about the game is simple and my gut kept telling me it had to get boring or repetitive at some point, but it never did. I would go back and buy a new costume with a new ability and the game would feel fresh all over again with one small change; whether the costume gave me a larger jump, more disks, faster disk regeneration or whatever, it changed the way I could play the game each time in small but impactful ways. When I had greater access to ammo I found myself going on the attack more, while having more maneuverability encouraged me to just go for distance. With the aesthetic direction hitting all the right notes, Top Run is the last endless runner I’ll ever need.
Buy Top Run
Follow Katata Games
Follow Fantastico Studio
*A game code was provided for review purposes.