Autorunners are all the rage. Popularised by the iOS, the genre can be best identified by having a protagonist that runs from left-to-right at a perpetually increasing speed. In order to succeed in autorunners you need to run as far as possible, aiding your character safely over platforms, ledges and various contextual obstacles with well timed leaps.
Grip Games' latest PlayStation Mini, One Epic Game, is an autorunner. You play as a bug-eyed super-hero, who must run through a world engulfed by video game cliches. Grip Games has clearly been paying attention to the chatter in enthusiast forums such as NeoGAF, and One Epic Game is an obvious parody on that. Thrust into a post-apocalyptic sci-fi world and back-in-time to the epicentre of World War II, you must sprint and shoot your way through cliche-after-cliche in a self-aware package that actually manages to be laugh-out-loud funny.
One Epic Game's biggest gameplay variation on other autorunners is that your character can shoot as well as leap. This gives the game an extra layer of challenge, as you're required to blast enemies with a surprisingly large roster of weapons as well as jump from platform-to-platform. The core action is rock-solid. Given its foundations in the autorunner genre, its hardly the most original idea in the world, but One Epic Game is well executed. The game's got a very distinct 16-bit look to it, that pops when played on both the PSP and the PlayStation 3. Despite the obvious (and intentional) cliches of One Epic Game's settings, Grip Games' art direction is strong and the environments look great.
The game's divided into a series of different modes, with the traditional Story mode likely to be your first stop. Here Grip Games' self-referential humour really comes to life, as the developer frequently drops industry-related jokes. DLC is one stomping ground One Epic Game gets a lot of laughs out of, frequently teasing the industry's reliance on post-release sales. But One Epic Game goes even more personal than that, plotting the industry's struggles with creativity and financial woes. It's a challenging topic for Grip to tackle, especially when you consider how derivative the gameplay in One Epic Game actually is, but the writing pulls the game through and will make you laugh in a shameful, nerdy kind of way. The slightly wonky localisation only adds to the humour as far as we're concerned.
Grip keeps One Epic Game's campaign interesting by introducing a number of alternative rules as you progress. Each of these can be tackled separately in a Challenge mode once you've completed the main storyline, dishing up medals as rewards for your progress. One level will challenge you to reach a specific speed, while others will require you to stomp on the heads of a specific number of enemies or avoid killing anyone all together. The different rules keep the campaign feeling fresh, and even though you'll have seen the plot through within approximately two-three hours, it's a worthwhile experience while it lasts.
Much of your time with One Epic Game will stem from the Free Play option. This best resembles the experience found in other autorunners, where you sprint through a never-ending environment trying to reach the furthest distance possible. As you shoot enemies, you'll build up chain combos which increase your score. Of course, hitting an opponent or obstacle will reset your bonus, so you're inspired to maintain a perfect run for as long as possible. Unfortunately it doesn't seem Grip Games has included support for its leaderboard system, which allowed you to track your progress in previous releases on the developer's website. A bunch of in-game achievements are included to keep you hooked though.
After trashing the audio in Grip Games' previous release, Minisquadron, we should make a particular note of One Epic Games' soundtrack. Chugging guitars and pumping beats really drive the action here, with orchestral swills and even vocal samples adding a cinematic tension of the gameplay. When the audio ramps up and the game gets hectic, One Epic Game can be quite a white-knuckle experience.
One Epic Game's not doing anything particularly original, but Grip Games would argue that's partly the point. With a genuinely comical narrative, some solid gameplay design and a good variety of options and modes, One Epic Game is an appealing package with a great price-point. If you're looking for a tense, accessible PlayStation Mini with a great sense of humour and an inviting art-direction, then look no further.
One Epic Game will be available July 20th on the European PlayStation Store. The game will release on the American PlayStation Store on August 2nd.