Ocean Runner 3DS eShop Review
Somewhat dynamic music
No real-money microtransactions
Annoying music loop
Only a single level
Silly, unnecessary story
Mild performance issues
Teyon’s Ocean Runner is a top-down, endless runner featuring some of the laziest storytelling and design choices I’ve had to endure in a while. It’s a time-killer app for the 3DS that features incredibly unwieldy controls, a shoe-horned “story,” and next to no variety. Although it at times feels like a platform for microtransactions, I’m at least happy to say they’re nowhere to be found. Even considering its low price of 2.99, I really can’t emphasize enough how little value there is here.
You play utilizing the 3DS’ stylus. Guide Gilbert the clownfish to the left, guide him to the right. Avoid dangerous sealife and gather as many yellow shells as possible while the world scrolls down across your two screens. Either shoulder button triggers a quick ramming attack that can knock out mostly any enemy or be used to slip past incoming threats. I’m not sure of how developers intended the controls to feel but I really couldn’t settle into maneuvering the stylus while balancing the DS and precisely executing my ramming attack. I especially couldn’t foresee executing these controls comfortably during a commute, i.e. the ideal time for time-killers.
A few powerups in the environment mix up play, including a narwhal-esque horn that makes Gilbert invincible, a horseshoe magnet that attracts collectables, and a lifesaver that gives players an extra continue, usable only once per run, to name a few. All items along with a few cosmetic options are purchasable in between runs in exchange for shells. I was pleasantly surprised by a lack of real-money microtransactions but at the same time confused. With its touchscreen focus and extremely limited presentation, was OR originally built for iOS or Android? Why are we purchasing weird objects at a shop in between runs? It doesn’t make any sense given that developers simultaneously attempt to justify gameplay with a silly Tex Avery-esque story.
Players take on the role of a shallow, peeping clownfish named Gilbert. His outright creepy story is presented in in the form of a single comic strip: While leering into an underwater beach resort through a telescope, Gilbert spots a pink ladyfish sitting poolside. Following his “heart,” Gilbert wanders into the resort, no plan whatsoever, and confesses to her his “love,” omitting the part about the telescope, I’d imagine. She loosely responds that her love must be won over in pearls. All out of pearls, Gilbert comes up with some allegedly cunning scheme – I’m not sure of what it is as it’s simply annotated as “!” in-game – and so begins his underwater quest to get some.
It’s really the stupidest video game story I’ve ever partaken in. Beyond the comic, players must unlock eight single-frame images that’re supposed to tell the story. One image portrays Gilbert and the ladyfish reenacting 1997’s Titanic Bow Scene; another has them in a photobooth together, presumably on a date. Static, drab, noninteractive comics. I don’t understand why they even bothered with this level of “storytelling” for characters we don’t know or care about. Maybe to create room for story-centered unlockables? Comics and images can function as great storytelling devices, allowing smaller developers to communicate plot development or complex action sequences in lieu of potentially pricey cutscenes. More imaginative characters and storytelling in this case could’ve helped if developers really felt the need to bother. I realize we’re talking about a cheap arcade title built to kill time, yes. However, the fact that developers present their protagonist as a scummy weirdo immediately soured the experience for me. I wouldn’t have thought twice about a story if our player controlled fish had just been a nameless vessel.
Gilbert’s character model is extremely generic, without any notable details or eccentricities. He doesn’t talk (thank heavens, actually, he can swim, and he collects shells. “He’s a clownfish,” is about all we needed, really. I ask again, did our generic fish need a story? Our “hero” isn’t a hero. Just a wormy little fella willing to spend a few bucks to get his rocks off and a ladyfish that’s having it.
NPCs are just as terribly generic as Gilbert’s character model, bearing flat textures and the most basic aspects of design. Despite the plain visuals, the frame-rate consistently dipped every time I’d use a power-up, even with my 3D turned off. Environments are colorful and stylized and do feature a welcome bit of variation, though, sadly but not unexpectedly, there’s only a single endless world/run to play. Every time you begin a game, you start in the same spot and deal with the same obstacles. A “head start” power-up allows Gilbert to jet past most of early obstacles but doesn’t get you far. I guess the idea is to invite players to memorize the layout and reach a little further with every run; however, as there aren’t any alternate runs that vary things up, this means you’ll have to play the same stretch of the game every time you pick it up. Developers would’ve done well to include more levels for variety and a few options to tweak runs like customizable speed or increased enemy populations. This could potentially have offset Teyon’s online leaderboards; however, varying, preset difficulty settings, i.e. easy-hard, or a simply rejecting submissions from customized runs could’ve easily mediated any issues.
The music in the game has a nice touch of interactivity, seamlessly fading in a new tune when Gibert uses a power-up or discovers a hidden area. It’s a small but appreciated. Having said that, the music itself is pretty lame, best described as corny, 80’s-TV-commercial, half-funky fusion. Strange as Teyon’s trailer for Ocean Runner featured a much better track that at least tried to bolster some excitement. To whom does this music appeal? I’d really like to know. Miko Mole, another mess of a game, went for a similar kind of tacky music.
If you’re somehow into time-kill, smartphone runners, you could possibly find some fun here, though ought to know better. If you’re toting a 3DS on your commute, recognize that there are far more enjoyable titles to help you through your morning. I’m at least content that Teyon didn’t include real-money microtransactions, though some evidence might suggest the idea was on the table. Offering a single game-mode, no real in-game options, and little satisfaction, Ocean Runner is neither worth your money nor your time.