Seeker & Runner Reviews—Running Is Fun, but Seeking Is Humdrum
We’re starting to see more PS Mobile games with 3D graphics, not just from larger developers, but also from smaller development studios and hobbyists. Seeker and Runner from Tim Collins and Liquid Games are examples of the latter. Although they are different games and sold separately, they share a lot in common and were released at the same time, so I’m reviewing them together, so as not to repeat myself.
In both games, you are piloting a ship through what is essentially an obstacle course. In the case of Seeker, you are flying a ship through an asteroid field. You have complete freedom of movement, using one stick (either physical or on screen) to steer and the other to rotate the ship. In Runner, your ship floats above the surface of a tunnel at a fixed distance and you can just move it left or right, apparently only using the touchscreen. You have full range of movement around the tunnel, which seems to be procedurally generated and is different every time.
The goal in Seeker is to capture a green glowing beacon hidden somewhere in the asteroid field. Finding it requires some doing, and then once you find it, you have to get to it. And once you get to it, you have to maneuver close enough to pick it up. All much easier said than done. You get one point for every beacon you grab, and there only seems to be one beacon in the asteroid field at one time. Runner is much simpler: you must simply travel as far as you can without running into a pylon. Your score increases as you move along.
One of the things I really liked about their previous game, Luminis, was the huge amount of gameplay variations you could pick from. That is absent from both these titles, with Seeker only having a difficulty selection (which changes how fast the asteroids move) and Runner not even having that, though a difficulty setting changing the speed of the ship and frequency of pylons should have been fairly easy to do.
Indeed, in some ways, both games feel almost more like tech demos than actual games. That’s not to say that they aren’t games, but they both could have been fleshed out into much deeper games. Runner in particular reminded me of those old trench-running arcade games from the 1980s. Even if you didn’t turn it into a shooter, you could add things to pick up, power-ups, and so forth.
The only sort of accomplishment or achievement in the game is a high score table. It’s unclear whether they are the scores of the playtesters or not, because you can reset them and they change slightly.
Both games are rather sparse graphically. In Seeker, you have basically the same exact asteroid, in terms of shape and texture, shown hundreds of time on the screen. Runner has that same repetition; the pylons are all the same shape, as is the tunnel, but at least there the colors vary, resulting in a fairly striking look. Both games use the same sound effects and background music track, which Luminis also used. It is a good track, though.
Seeker controls very nicely, but finding a beacon in an asteroid field is only slightly more enjoyable, if a little easier, than finding a needle in a haystack. It’s a very rewarding feeling when you manage to snag a beacon, but the difficulty in grabbing it and the fact that your score resets after a crash is more punishment than pleasure.
Runner is by far the more enjoyable of the two games but is hampered by the lack of physical control support. It’s certainly playable with a touchscreen, but the imprecise nature of the controls can get frustrating. It’s still quite fun and is a game that you want to keep playing over and over just to beat your last score. More depth would have helped, though, much like Jetpack Joyride improved on the endless runner format pioneered by Canabalt.