Ah, the endless runner: a sub-genre almost as ubiquitous in the promotional game space as the everyday Puzzle & Dragons knock-off. Unfortunately for developer Firesprite – a UK studio made up of ex-WipEout veterans – the awkwardly punctuated Run Sackboy! Run! doesn't possess quite the same originality as the parent property that it's been designed to promote, but does that mean that you should be lacing up your hi-tops and sprinting in the opposite direction? Well, it depends what you want.
As a free-to-play PlayStation Vita time waster this isn't exactly terrible – even if you will have seen pretty much the extent of everything that it has to offer in about an hour or so. You control Media Molecule's burlap Usain Bolt, tapping the touch screen to avoid enemies and obstacles. Prize Bubbles are scattered around each environment and represent the game's main currency, allowing you to purchase costumes, power-up improvements, and more. You perhaps won't be surprised to learn that this launched on smartphones last year.
Each costume that you acquire increases a score multiplier, allowing you to improve upon your personal best more easily over time. You'll also be set Jetpack Joyride-esque challenges, which allow you to level up, again increasing your points boost. Stickers litter each stage and can be nabbed to unlock in-game prizes in the LittleBigPlanet games, while there are also Lucky Chests which can be purchased to grant tokens and special prizes.
Are you keeping up? Good, because that's all that you really need to know. The game's designed in a way that ensures a constant trickle of unlocks, but there's enough stuff just out of reach to encourage you to part with your real-world cash. The majority of you will likely be done with the release by the time that you reach that point, but those of you that buy into the title's reward loop may be tempted by a Double Prize Bubbles boost, for example.
There's nothing really wrong with the title: Sackboy still controls like the gangling plaything from the mainline games, despite this being a single button experience. Power-ups inject a bit of additional gameplay variety, allowing you to vacuum up points with a magnet or hit clumps of Prize Bubbles with a jet-pack. You can, of course, increase the duration of these upgrades with a spot of in-game currency cash.
It looks decent enough, too, with the makeshift nature of the series' Art Attack world PVA glued together perfectly well on the Vita's vibrant five-inch screen. The framerate's not as smooth as it probably should be, though, stuttering with regularity when there's a lot going on in any particular scene, but given the simplicity of the platforming, it's unlikely that it's ever going to culminate in your untimely demise. No, you can thank your dodgy reactions for that.
The problem is that it's all just so predictable; this is colour-by-numbers game design, riddled with all of the free-to-play clichés that you'd expect from a promotional experience such as this. Firesprite's done a decent enough job of transposing LittleBigPlanet's whimsical themes to the format, but there's only so many times that you can pilot the title's costumed character over a series of spikes before it starts to run out of steam.
With promising presentation and plenty of content, Run Sackboy! Run! gets off to strong start. Repetitive gameplay and a lack of original ideas drain this enthusiastic athlete of energy, however, and you'll be tired of the free-to-play experience long before you reach the finish line.