Endless runners are about as common in the iPhone and iPad space as third-person, cover-based shooters are in the console world. There’s a lot and most feel derivative. That’s why when Verticus came along, it sorta grabbed me. It’s an endless runner, except instead of running you’re playing a character who’s falling. That doesn’t sound like much, but the sense of speed, momentum, and the different perspectives that come with this conceit are a welcome change of pace for a clotted genre.
Plus, there’s the feel of Verticus, which is pretty unique. As you fall, you navigate a 3D column of air, gently gliding around hazards that shoot up towards you. The speed at which you fall feels pretty fast, which is a nice contrast to the more slow, calculated kind of movements you’ll need to do in order to avoid hazards. The amount of scenery you chew as you do this is a nice bonus. You start in the air, move into the heart of some sort of sci-fi mega city, and then travel into the craggy, molten core of the planet.
The hazards are mines for the most part — immovable objects that blow up or freeze you if you bang into them. Later, you’ll run into enemies that fire lasers. As you fall, you’ll need to collect the purple currency that appears at random intervals. With this currency, you can buy upgrades like cooler suits, more health, and even guns for shooting those aforementioned moving mines. It takes awhile to collect enough coins for the higher-tiered upgrades, so you’ll be playing for awhile if the action ends up clicking with you.
Here’s another neat thing: Stan Lee, the dude who co-created the Hulk, Spider-Man, and dozens of other comic book heroes, worlds, plots, and villains in the Marvel universe, is plastered all over Verticus. His name, voice, and image are all prominent. He’s the narrator as well as several characters. It’s hard to miss him.
The connection goes a bit deeper than just a name on a logo. In some ways, the rest of Verticus’s constituent parts feel like a love letter to the campy Marvel comics Lee had a hand in. There’s plenty of overdone narration and over-the-top voice-acting, and the game stars a fairly unremarkable hero. That is to say, he’s more human than a hero — or at least, that’s the impression that I get.
Verticus is tough; it’s a hard game to beat. But it’s just as hard to put down. Give it a look if you’re in the market for another kind of endless game and are pretty tired of the legions of Temple Run derivatives out there.
Also, if you want a better deal, throw this up on your Wish List. Over the last couple of weeks, it’s been off and on sale. There was even a period when it was free.