One of my favourite casual games of 2019 was Hero Express, a Trials-like game in which you drive various vehicles across a bumpy landscape as you try to reach the finish line in one piece. That game was both developed and published by Fantastico Studio, a team that clearly love simple and old-school visuals, mechanics, and gameplay. So, when I first saw Top Run, this time developed by Katata Games and published by Fantastico Studio, I knew it was going to be a simple, yet very addictive, game.
Top Run is an endless runner – a game in which you run, endlessly. However, the funky aesthetics, progression-based unlocks, and revolving challenges all keep you occupied and engaged, despite the gameplay remaining the same throughout. So, whether you love the addictive genre, saw the visuals and thought the game looks fun, or you were simply attracted by the low price-tag, let’s take a look at what to expect from this 80s-stylised game…
There are a few variants on the Endless Runner genre, Top Run is a 2D side-scrolling game in which you endlessly run from left to right, collecting power-ups and support ‘items’ to help you get as far as you can before you bump into an ‘obstacle’ – one hit is all it takes to wipe you out.
You play as Kevin and his canine companion, running as fast and far as you can towards your goal – I presume he has one? The controls are super simple, you can jump, drop down from a platform, shoot, and use a ‘buddy ability’. It really is a ‘runner’ in the truest sense as you can’t move your character left or right, only up and down. However, unlike games such as Runner3, you don’t have to master things such as sliding under objects, stomping to the ground to avoid spikes in the air, or kicking things at the precise point of impact, it’s easier and more casual than that particular game.
The further you get into the stage (distance-wise), the more you’ll encounter enemies wandering around and various unique ‘boss-like’ characters will turn up and try to take you down. You have but one standard weapon, the legendary Floppy Disk, a weapon you can only throw a set amount of times before you have to wait until you’ve restocked before you can unleash Hell once more. As such, you must utilise the various power-ups and Buddies to your advantage if you wish to make it further than your last attempts.
Power-ups, Buddies and Bonus Stages
There are a total of four Power-ups within Top Run, all of which can be upgraded with all the Pixels you collect so that they last a few seconds longer upon use. You can freeze all the enemies and simply shatter them upon impact, have your dog create a shield that kills anything it touches, grab your Hoverboard and suck in all the Pixels you pass whilst flying, or throw three Floppies each time you throw one. My only complaint with these items is the price of upgrading them – there’s a trophy for maxing them all out but the prices are really high, so it’s going to take a while!
Within each stage there is also a Boost icon, running into this will cause Kevin to dash forward a short distance, instantly pulverising anything he comes into contact with.
The ‘Buddies’ are what you’d expect, they are people who have been kidnapped and locked inside of some form of a cryogenic chamber filled with green sludge. Upon saving these people (which may be clones as you see a number of the same person as there are only three variations), you can push Triangle to use their unique ability. One of the characters, Ben, basically turns into Sonic and rolls forward and eliminates anything he touches, another one fires out numerous fireballs, and the final one lets out a sonic boom which gradually wipes out everyone on the screen.
At certain points in the stage (I’m not quite sure what triggers it), you’re sent to a psychedelic Bonus Stage, a stage in which you move your canine companion up and down to collect Pixels. However, I hope you aren’t epileptic as the stage is very colourful with bright images on top of a bright background with a semi-transparent giant pixel-art dog floating around. Seriously, if you’re not on taking drugs whilst playing this game, this stage will make it feel like you are!
Levels and Modes
Top Run isn’t a very big game, in terms of content, yet it manages to become really addictive and fun to play without feeling repetitive or monotonous. There are only two ‘worlds’ to run through, the City and Vaporware. Both of these are randomly generated platforms and buildings that you can jump on set in front of a different background theme. The city is your standard 80s-style Neon lit night-time city, and the Vaporware is you running through a wireframe landscape with ‘Windows’ title bars you can jump on.
In terms of Modes, you can only play on ‘Normal’ to begin with. After you’ve reached a certain level you’ll unlock Hardcore then Rage mode. As you’d expect, the higher the difficulty, the more enemies you’ll encounter and the more hazards the game throws at you.
Aside from the enemies within each stage, there are also two other events which I’ve experienced a lot, KIT and Lava. Okay, it’s not technically KIT but it is known within Top Run as ‘Night Driver’ (clearly a pun on Knight Rider). This is a KIT-like car that comes in from left to right and eliminates everything that’s on the lower floor (except you). I have no idea how to trigger this event but it’s very useful and you get a trophy for it. The lava is a nice addition – you’re given about a seconds warning before ‘the floor is lava’ happens – meaning you have to remain on the top two levels of broken platforms as the floor is now, surprise surprise, lava!
When you first start playing Top Run, you’re given three objectives. At first, they are simple, such as collect X amount of Pixels in one go, or Run a certain length before you die. But, as you get further into the game they’ll start to get a little more difficult such as defeating a certain number of a hard boss which doesn’t appear until you’ve run a set distance, or obtain a score without picking up any Power-ups. Once you complete one of the challenges, it’s removed, you get experience points, and a new one appears in its place.
Also, there’s a semi-hidden mini-game called Cybervaders – it’s basically Space Invaders but much harder. However, beat the high score and grab a trophy!
I was going to discuss how I felt the game operated like a mobile game and how it would be perfectly suited for that platform – then I looked it up and found that the game actually came out on mobile devices last year. You can clearly tell, by how the game plays and the rate at which you earn Pixels, that the game was originally designed to be played in short bursts over a long time. In terms of Microtransactions, the Mobile version lets you pay to unlock all the costumes or just the ones you want, not Pixels, so that’s good as it means the developers didn’t build the game around a pay-to-win mechanic, only pay-to-look-snazzy.
However, I do feel the prices within this console version for unlocking and upgrading is still a little too high.
I absolutely love the customisation within Top Run – I wish every game had this much choice within it. First of all, you can change your dog into a cat, a pug, a corgi, a unicorn, a non-textured asset, or even a dog wearing a banana disguise – there’s a lot of different crazy options. In terms of Kevin, the choices are even greater. You can swap your clothes for a few Michael Jackson styles, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Teen Wolf, Freddy Krueger, Pennywise, Forrest Gump, or even the highly popular Kung Fury. Obviously, all of them have pun-based names to avoid copyright, but they’re all fun to look at.
The downside of the character customisation is the price. As this is a console game, there’s no actual real money spent on buying the cosmetics but it will take you a very long time to collect enough Pixels to both upgrade your Power-ups and your looks.
You can also access your apartment which has its own unlocks and customisation, but this one is much simpler and cheaper! As you level up Kevin (by completing challenges), you’ll get new gear unlocked within your apartment – making it look much better than the run-down shack it is at the beginning.
Visually, I love Top Run. It has that over the top 80s vibe to it, with the neon lights, 80s style music, and lots of references to 80s pop-culture. It reminded me of how Far Cry did the same thing with Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (which needs to come to the PS4) and even the brilliant Kung Fury with its accompanying music video from David Hasselhoff. The whole thing is just great to look at and the performance is silky smooth – which is essential in a Runner game.
The music is also very 80s in its approach. The soundtrack is by Beckett who seems to specialise in “Synthwave, vocoder and a backdrop of 80’s beats” – so basically exactly what this game needed!
For a game that was practically developed by two people, I was highly impressed as it had me hooked as soon as I started playing it – I love mindless casual games which you can play when you have a few moments to spare.
Top Run is a game that you’ll find easy to play yet hard to master, especially on the Rage difficulty. Simple casual games like this are super addictive and you’ll find yourself investing hours into this game without even realising it. If you love games themed on the 80s or are simply looking for something to play in short bursts which feels rewarding and like you’re actually progressing, then I can honestly highly recommend Top Run to you. There’s even a platinum for those who are willing to invest a lot of time into unlocking all of the abilities and seeing everything the game has to offer.
- - Very addictive
- - Perfectly captures the 80s, even if it's a bit over-the-top
- - Upgrading the power-ups so you can get a little further makes the progression and gameplay very satisfying
- - Cheap price for endless entertainment
- - You can dress you your character in lots of pun-tastic costumes and change your dog's breed!
- - It is an 'Endless Runner' so repetition is to be expected
- - Only two levels to run on, I would have liked a few more
- - Can get a bit frustrating when you've ran quite far as the game ramps up it's difficulty a lot
- - Will take a long time to get enough Pixels to unlock all the upgrades and costumes