Friday, September 25, 2009

Let's REVIEW Let's Tap: Tap Runner

It was only a week ago that I wrote about the recently announced Let's Tap games for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Now, a week later, both Tap Runner and Gem Game have been released. As Tap Runner was the defining game of the Wii version, producing the little clear jelly man that has become Prope's unofficial mascot, I decided to download it and give it a try on my iPod Touch. How does Naka's latest fare on a portable platform? Let's Review!

Tap Runner is one of five modes found on the original Wii, and to many is the standout game in the collection. Rather than releasing a more expensive iPod version of the complete Let's Tap, Prope is offering up each game at $3.99 each. This approach allows iPod owners and Let's Tap fans (I accidentally typed "Let's Fap" as a typo and it made me laugh) to pick and choose what games they wish to play at a lower price. Let's say you want to play the platforming and shooting games only. Well for $7.98, I can!

Tap Runner is a racing game, pitting four translucent jelly-like men against each other. While running is the main method of reaching the goal, obstacles including trapeze wires, spring pads, crushers and hurdles will stand in their way. Running, walking and avoiding obstacles is done by tapping. To maintain a run the player must steadily tap at a medium weight, heavy taps cause the player to jump and light to little taps slow the player down. The game rightfully avoids telling the player what taps work the best in various situations, allowing for experimentation in the best ways to overcome traps and reach the goal. The full game includes 16 courses, each being unlocked when earlier courses are completed. With such a wide variety of obstacles and methods of propelling the runner, the game continues to be fresh even when the final course is played. One complaint: you are restricted to playing as the blue player, no player/color select screen precedes a race.

Obviously the make or break of this game is the controls. Unlike other iPod Touch games, Tap Runner utilizes vibrations picked up by tapping near the iPod. Unfortunately, when one is on their commute to work, they can't simply pull out a box and start tapping without looking like a crazy person. Thankfully Prope has provided three control options. Tap Style is similar to the original Wii control mode. The player sets their iPod on a box and adjusts the Tap Strength by tapping and reading the level meter. This is the most accurate mode and works quite well when played. It took a few failed games for me to find the proper taps, but once I got it right it worked rather well.

The second control mode is Touch Style which shows a bar on the bottom of the screen, ranging from light to heavy representing tap strength. Rather than picking up vibrations, the player uses touch controls along the bar, tapping on the left to run and the right to jump. This is the easiest of the three modes, and while it isn't a true tapping experience, it is perfect for playing while commuting and almost always wins a race. The third mode is Free Style, and from what I can tell is a much more sensitive Tap Style mode. The mode suggests players hold the device while tapping anywhere on the iPod, unfortunately the tap detection can be dodgy in this mode as there are too many variables in holding the device. I suggest the latter two modes for optimal playing- er, optimal tapping.

The sound is first rate! Directly ripped from the Wii version. I'll admit I've sat through the title screen a few times to hear the Let's Tap theme. All the actions in runner game are supplied with suitable cartoony sound effects.

Graphics are bright and colorful. The runners are pre-rendered sprites and go through a variety of actions. The runner's courses are fully rendered in 3D, looking a bit like wire frame TRON architecture. The frame rate is consistent. There really isn't that much to complain about in the sound and graphics department. Very solid.

I would like to point out the one glaring mistake of the game:


Ahem, excuse me. Besides that, Let's Tap: Tap Runner is a solid port of the Wii game, taking advantage of the iPod's capabilities (for the most part). The only areas Tap Runner fails in is that Prope really could have implemented an online mode, allowing players to upload high scores and race against ghosts of other players runners. Here's hoping these modes are implemented in an update.

Overall a good game from Prope, recommended for Let's Tap fans and Sega fans looking for a new original iPod game.

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