Totem Runner (universal) by Chillingo is the kind of auto runner I wish we saw more in the App Store, less about high score chasing and IAP loving, and more about gameplay and atmosphere. With dynamic visuals and a unique style of gameplay, Totem Runner is a title a lot more creative than its title might suggest.
Like many side-scrolling adventures, Totem Runner takes place in a magical world corrupted by evil – and of course, it’s up to players to control the hero. To save the day, players will have to harness the powers of the bird and bull – using dedicated buttons on the right side of the screen – transforming into animals to harness their abilities. Turning into a bird will let players navigate over large gaps, and the bull helps power through any vines or rocks standing in the way.
Along with utilizing the powers of different animals, players are in charge of rejuvenating plant life through each of the game’s 18 complex levels. Pressing and holding on the left side of the screen while running in human form will activate his planting powers. This is technically optional – and will be when learning the difficult layouts – but is the only way to earn a star rating and master the level.
It sounds like a lot to handle at one time – and although the tutorial level does a great job explaining these mechanics, there’s going to be a lot of dying, especially for more casual players. Even on the first few levels, it will take multiple runs through certain segments to balance transforming back and forth, avoiding obstacles and enemies that will pop up along the way – all while trying to plant flowers and collect gems for special moves along the way.
The area where Totem Runner‘s originality shows the most is in the amazing visual design. Each level and character animation is colorful and intricate, really giving every aspect of the game an impressive, unique look. It’s also the rare runner worth playing with headphones, with a great, drum-heavy soundtrack, and even some great sound effects.
Every time I get tired of the side-scrolling platformer, titles like Totem Runner pull me back in and have me glued to my iPhone for hours at a time, trying desperately to make it through the most hardcore levels. It’s not the easiest game around, but the mystical, beautiful landscapes and the interesting gameplay make it an easy recommendation for fans of the genre, or any gamer looking for something a little bit different on their iOS device.