Top Run is an infinite runner from Katata Games with a dapper coat of the 1980s. Originally released as a mobile title, Top Run stars Kevin and his dog Buddy as they find themselves with sudden new powers granted by a floppy disk. With the world just as suddenly imperiled, the two set out to bop some baddies and rescue Kevin’s friends.
The game is perfectly simple. You run endlessly and automatically to the right chanting 80s movie, television, and music quotes as you encounter enemies and obstacles. There are only three buttons: jump, fall through platforms and shoot. With three weaponized floppy disks in hand, the player must choose whether it is wiser at any given moment to shoot or to dodge. If you shoot, the floppies regenerate every few seconds. If you dodge, there are three verticle levels of platforms to traverse with single and double jumps. As each round progresses, the running speed increases and the enemy types diversify. They become increasingly more difficult to dodge or require more hits to vanquish.
Throughout each run, you will encounter several types of boosts, including an enemy freeze, a Buddy-generated shield, a speed boost that runs your right through any enemy, a hoverboard that sustains Kevin on a single platform level even when there is no platform, and triple floppy shots. Kevin will also occasionally find his friends trapped in some sort of alien test-tube whereupon rescuing them you can activate a single-use power, including a telekinetic full-screen blast, a stream of fireball projectiles, and a bowling ball-like move that wipes out all enemies on ground-level.
Top Run‘s visual style doesn’t completely scream 80s. It’s a pixel-art game but the fidelity is too high to evoke the visuals of a game made in that era. The game’s elements are definitely 80s though and so are the occasional bits of dialogue, visual gags, and its swell soundtrack by Beckett.
The pacing of the infinite run is just right. It takes just the right amount of time to start feeling difficult but the difficulty ramps up quickly enough that a run lasting more than a minute feels like an accomplishment. The runs also have enough within them to keep them interesting. In addition to a range of enemy types and well-placed powerups, an occasional “floor is lava” mode will activate where Kevin can’t touch the lava floor or the run will end. There is also an occasional “Buddy Time” that activates to send you into a bonus round for a few seconds and the Night Rider who comes through to wipe out ground-level enemies for you at random. Jumping back into a new round is also quick and easy, which is perfect for a game like this.
The success of each run is measured by distance run, pixels collected, and a score, which increased as you run and with each enemy killed and can be multiplied with difficulty. Pixels are used to purchase costumes for Buddy and Kevin, all of which are based on 80s pop culture, such as Kevin Vorhees or my favorite, Inspecter Kevin. The Kevin costumes are also tied to bonus powers, including triple jump, an extra floppy, faster floppy restore, and more frequent dashes.
All of the costumes cost the same 10,000 pixels, which makes buying lose its excitement after the one or two that I was interested in. I would have been more inclined to try out more costumes if unlocking them were tied to challenges or if the powerups were more diverse. The triple jump was the only one I ever found valuable. The other purpose that pixels serve is to purchase upgrades to the game’s powerups, making them last fractions of seconds longer. I pretty much never spent money on them though, because those seconds worth of extension never felt valuable.
I like Top Run for what it is, but I can’t say I would ever spend $5 to buy it on a console, especially considering it is a free game on iOS and Android. Besides, simple games like this are best for on-the-go replayability. That’s why it doesn’t upset me that there isn’t really much more to the game than running and gunning. There is a leveling system tied to simple accomplishments like “kill x enemies” or “run x distance” that you work towards three at a time. Leveling up is how you unlock harder difficulties and one alternate map.
You also unlock pre-set improvements to your apartment on the title screen which is, sort of cool, but also pointless. The only thing the apartment seems to be for is adorning the title screen and accessing a less-than-stellar knock off of Space Invaders. Beyond that though, the only incentive to keep playing is to beat your high score, which, in a world of achievements and even my own neverending quest to feed my brain with Gamerscore’s dopamine spikes, is just fine.
Top Run is a fun little infinite runner certainly worth the download on mobile to pass the time on a commute. I did hit a small glitch once, but it never happened a second time. It’s maybe worth the $5 on Switch if you’re looking for a definitely superior version with better controls and UI. It is not really worth a purchase on Xbox or Playstation.
Top Run is available now.
Top Run is a fun little infinite runner certainly worth the download on mobile to pass the time on a commute. I did hit a small glitch once, but it never happened a second time. It’s maybe worth the $5 on Switch if you’re looking for a definitely superior version with better controls and UI.