Endless runners were ten to the dozen only a few years ago, but many were limited to the mobile scene. With the greatest of respect to developers, the app stores were littered with them and it was tough to differentiate between them all. In that sense then, does Top Run – a premium endless runner – feel out of date coming out in 2020, or is it a refreshing turn of pace?
Top Run in actual fact started as a mobile endless runner itself, boasting over 50,000 downloads on Android alone, and shortly after my first run it was clear to see why.
You play as Kevin and – along with your dog Buddy – must race through a 2D neon-soaked city. By combining basic platformer elements such as being able to jump up and drop down between three different levels, and shooter mechanics that has Kevin flinging floppy disks at enemies, Top Run offers a little bit more than your standard endless runner.
These floppy disks come in handy as there are several enemies to be wary of. The game starts off leisurely with simple enemies that shouldn’t cause too much trouble, but it isn’t long before they start firing back at you, and you need three pairs of eyes to keep track of everything on-screen.
You don’t have to take them all on alone though; one of the primary objectives in Top Run is to also rescue your friends. Dotted throughout the run are one of three friends locked inside some retro-futuristic chamber that you can save by running past. As well as doing a good deed, these friends also have unique abilities that feel a little bit like the special attacks in Streets of Rage and make short work of a large number of enemies should you get overwhelmed.
Failing that, there are power-ups galore to pick up. These can be used to freeze enemies and fire additional floppies. Even good boy Buddy gets in on the action with Buddy Shield, making you invincible for short periods and defeating any enemy that comes into contact with the shield. The length of time these are all active for can also be upgraded using the pixels you collect during your run.
Pixels essentially work as currency and coins from similar games such as Temple Run and Jetpack Joyride, and can be used to upgrade the power-ups but also give Kevin and Buddy different skins. These skins follow the same trend as the rest of the game: a healthy dose of 80’s nostalgia. Kevin can dress up as his favourite film characters including Jason Voorhees, Maverick from Top Gun, The Terminator, a Ghostbuster, Indiana Jones and Teen Wolf. All called something slightly different of course. Each outfit for Kevin also comes with a bonus so there is more to them than just looking good.
It isn’t just the outfits; the game is full of 80’s references and throwbacks. The cinema you run past is advertising ‘Legal’ Weapon 2, the billboards feature classic 80’s logos just changed slightly to avoid copyright issues, and the synthwave soundtrack is as 80’s as you can get.
The music in the game is all done by Manchester-born Beckett and chosen from his extensive back catalogue of 1980’s inspired synthwave. Despite the music featured fitting perfectly for each setting it is used in, these haven’t been made specifically for the game. But rest assured, things match up perfectly; the main menu music is a much calmer pace but once you are running you can’t help but tap along despite the mayhem unfolding on-screen.
Top Run also goes a bit further than your standard endless runner. Alongside the usual objectives and perk upgrades, levelling up also brings additional benefits. Kevin and Buddy have an apartment that – for a lack of a better phrase – looks like a pigsty. Each level brings with it some new furniture for your apartment that over time goes through a complete makeover. Also in your apartment is a vertical arcade machine with the latest arcade game on there – Space Invaders! Or rather, a clone called Cybervaders that plays identically.
Levelling up also has other perks. Just when you think the game is starting to feel stale, you can unlock extra difficulty modes and even a brand new level. Add to this the random elements that occur during a run such as various weather changes and bonus stages like Buddy Time and The Floor is Lava, and Top Run is an endless runner that perfectly nails that ‘one more try’ trope.
In total, Top Run has 20 achievements and, as expected for an endless runner, can be a little bit grindy. But some early ones are also very generous, so overall there is a healthy mix that won’t take overly long to fully get through.
And all this for £4.19.
What was once perhaps an unnecessary genre on consoles has been dragged back to the ’80s with the excellent Top Run on Xbox One. There is enough of a levelling and upgrade system to make you feel like you’re making progress, and the pixel art and soundtrack are both gorgeous in their own right. Testament to the game is that in between writing this review, I’m still very much in that ‘one more try’ mentality. So if you’ll excuse me…