Utopian Games has impressed me with their ability to rapidly produce creative, fun and engaging, yet simple and approachable puzzle games. Their latest release, Running Wild, blends elements of popular games like Little Runner and Canabalt to create a new and unique experience that will have your fingers in a flurry of activity and put your memory and reflexes to the test.

In each of Running Wild’s 50 levels, your goal is to protect Marv and help created a clear path for him to collect the 10 purple stars. The game has a perpetual sense of motion as Marv is constantly moving forward and you must tap blocks, move platforms, build platforms, stop heat-seeking missiles, and even kill monsters to make sure that Marv is able to complete his task. Along with the purple stars, there are also 10 of winged, orange bonus stars which can be collected in each level by tapping or swiping on them as Marv passes bye. The only control input, other than interacting with the objects on the screen directly with your finger, is the action button, which will either make Marv run (while pressed) or make him jump, depending on the level.

There is a nice mix of challenging and easy levels, many of which will require multiple play-throughs if you want to achieve a perfect score or even just complete them. You’ll have to remember which bridges need stretching, which to avoid and when those pesky missiles will appear. Some levels will require Marv to just make a single pass through the level left to right (or right to left) to complete, but others will require you to u-turn Marv at the end and navigate back through the level in the opposite direction (quickly re-positioning paths and destroying respawned obstacles) in order for Marv to collect the remaining (and previously unattainable) purple stars. This is where the game really shines and where you, as the player, must determine the correct path to take in each direction if you want to successfully navigate the level and hit all of the stars.

That being said, the game does suffer from a few minor performance quirks, but none of them are so severe as to deter from the fun of the game. The first is that oddly, between retries on a level, some objects which you moved in your previous attempt don’t always get properly reset to their original position before the next attempt. This can lead to instant death in your next attempt, while you wait for these to reset correctly. Also, all of the action seems to slow down a bit when your reach a monster, perhaps this is intentional, perhaps it’s an actual frame rate issue, but it does take some of the challenge out of these particular obstacles. Finally, at times I found the action button to be a bit unresponsive. A couple of other minor quibbles I had with the game were the fact that the menu button is poorly placed and too many times I found myself accidentally exiting during a particularly intense level. There is a special bonus platform game which unlocks if you successfully collect all 500 stars and all 500 bonus stars. The issue I had is that there is no way to tell on an individual level how many bonus stars you have already collected, just a total count across each 10-level grouping. This means a lot of replaying of levels as you try to figure out which ones you missed, unless you are diligent about collecting them from the get go.

Running Wild’s crisp vector graphics, are once again provided by the talented team at Sprite Attack. I am a big fan of their art style and like the art in their previous Utopian Game titles, the five different themed silhouetted backdrops and clean lines make for an inviting experience. Sound-wise, there is some humorous dialog that comes from Marv as he makes his way through his quest and the auditory experience is rounded out by an ear-pleasing soundtrack.

In Conclusion

I thoroughly enjoyed Running Wild, and I’d say it is one of Utopian Game’s best games to date. It adds some really cool puzzle elements to the running genre. It is sometimes frustrating, but always challenging and fun. I’d love to see Utopian Games find a way to eliminate the few minor performance issues and perhaps add some Game Center leaderboards for stars collected or fastest times on individual levels (although this one is in GameSalad’s court, who are dragging their feet on adding Game Center support to their development kit), but even as it stands now, I definitely recommend Running Wild to fans of either puzzle or running games, or anyone who likes to have their reflexes challenged.

Want to win a FREE copy of Running Wild?

We are giving away several promo codes for free copies of Running Wild. There are three ways to participate in the giveaway, each will earn you ONE entry to win a code:

  1. Follow @OTGGamer (or @AppAddictnet) AND tweet the following message:
    I just entered to win a copy of Running Wild from AppAddict.net and @UtopianGames! – http://bit.ly/RunningWildGiveaway #Giveaway #iPhone“.  
    Note: Tweeting multiple times WILL NOT increase your chances to win, only your first tweet will count toward the contest, so no need to spam your followers.
  2. Leave a comment below, saying why you’d like to win a copy.
  3. Click here, become a fan of AppAddict.net on Facebook and either like or leave a comment on the post for THIS review/contest.

Each method above will earn you one entry into the contest for the promo codes, regardless of method of entry, you are only eligible to win one promo code per person. Don’t worry, your email address is not visible to anyone but us and will only be used to contact you regarding this contest.

The giveaway will run until 11:59 PM EST on Wednesday January 13, 2011.

According to Apple’s new promo code rules, these should work worldwide.