An infinite distance left to run
The App Store is a strange and capricious place. Once an app reaches a certain level of market awareness, success becomes a self-perpetuating phenomenon, regardless of any characteristics of the app itself. There’s no other way to explain, for example, the continued existence of the extraordinarily terrible Beautiful Boobs near the top of the free-app charts. Despite thousands of one-star ratings (the app’s overall score is an extremely generous 1.5) and the presence of countless superior free lady-ogling apps (which is to say, all of them), the mere fact that it’s in the top 10 causes more and more people to download it, keeping it there and shutting out more worthwhile titles.
The same problem also afflicts the paid-app charts, which is why Doodle Jump has been the No.1 paid game for about the last 50 years despite not being particularly great and there being an army of similar titles that are better (eg PapiJump+) and/or free. And such extended systemic bed-blocking sometimes causes very obviously brilliant apps to inexplicably fail to reach the heights they richly deserve.
The unhelpfully-named Run!, by the splendidly-named indie coder Arthur Ham, may possibly be my all-time favourite iPod game (in Quick Mode, that is). It’s very cute, highly addictive, has great catchy music, can be grasped by anyone in five seconds, and doesn’t involve any tilt controls. It’s got sharks, zombies, chainsaws and asteroids, and lots more besides. It’s got comprehensive online leaderboards and achievements, and a variety of modes including one where you can customise the game any way you like and then challenge your friends to play with your custom rules. And it costs just 59p. Yet bar a brief flicker on launch (assisted by being an App Store featured game) it hasn’t troubled the top 100 since being released back in August 2009.
And while almost every other decent iPod game I own has a well-populated OpenFeint friends leaderboard, Run! offers just a single opponent (with an absurdly feeble high score of 24, suggesting a game that lasted a maximum of 15 seconds) from the dozens of people I know with iPods and iPhones. Far more people bought Canabalt, despite it being a very similar but shallower game, no better made and three times the price.
Now, titling your game with a short generic word like Run! is pretty stupid. But a game this good ought to have risen to the top by now on word of mouth alone, and WoSblog is at a loss to explain why this one hasn’t. I mean, we’re talking about a game you only need one finger to play, and yet in which you can still bounce off a springboard over a leaping shark to pull off a flying kung-fu kick and take out a zombie parachuting from a helicopter, while blowing up a flaming meteor and a falling bomb with a rocket, and punch a wizard in the face when you land. It’s like I don’t even understand people any more.