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You Should Play: Fotonica brings a new thrilling twist to endless runners

Andrew Hayward | Oct. 7, 2014
Fotonica looks like what many of us still imagined virtual reality was before the Oculus Rift went and modernized the experience, sending you sprinting and leaping through a sparse, barely-there world from a first-person perspective.

These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play. 

It's probably fair to label Fotonica an endless runner, much like Canabalt, Temple Run, and a seemingly endless array of other mobile genre options--but that familiar tag seems way too pedestrian for a game so daring, exciting, and effortlessly engrossing.

Fotonica looks like what many of us still imagined virtual reality was before the Oculus Rift went and modernized the experience, sending you sprinting and leaping through a sparse, barely-there world from a first-person perspective. Ensuring you always have a platform beneath your feet is the main goal as you bound across gaps of endless black nothingness. 

But as you build up incredible speed, the pathways and trippy backdrops take on a blurred yellow tone, and that's when everything clicks: the chaotic pace and flitting wireframe graphics are perfectly juxtaposed by the cool soundtrack and dead simple controls. It's a powerful, exciting sensation, and one you'll continually strive for as you navigate the standalone levels and endless stages.

Ready to dive into this lo-fi curio? Here are three of the brightest spots of this deceptively dazzling first-person experience.

It's a dream world: I have probably snagged screenshots from several hundred mobile games in my career, yet none has proven as challenging as Fotonica. You just can't capture the wonder of these mostly-monochromatic (dashes of color appear here and there) levels with a still frame--believe me, I tried repeatedly! Despite all sharing a basic core aesthetic, each level feels totally distinct, whether it's the pattern of platforms you can run and land upon, or the visual highlights within.

Some levels try to draw your eye with wild patterns in the backgrounds, or flashing effects that appear while you run. Others pack in surprising detail, particularly one stage that finds you running through homes and across billboard ledges. And Fotonica's presentational prowess isn't confined to simply visuals, as the paired electronic soundtrack is a fantastic match, and it really helps propel you further and further as you inevitably perish time and again.

A perfect fit for iOS: Before landing on iPhone and iPad, Fotonica began life on Mac and PC, and you can even find it on the Ouya microconsole. While I'm sure it's a great experience with a controller or keyboard, Santa Ragione's game is such an excellent fit for touch devices that you might be surprised to find out that it wasn't designed solely for its App Store debut.

 

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