The moment you see the start screen for Temple Run 2, you know something is different. It looks familiar, extremely reminiscent of the original, but with a makeover. It’s like somebody repainted your favourite bedroom and it just looks a little more polished than it did before. And that’s the sort of thing that applies to the visual overhaul that Imangi Studios has given Temple Run with the sequel.
The game retains the same premise as before. But Temple Run 2, like any great Hollywood sequel, expands on the premise with new concepts, characters and more spectacular action. It’s just an endless-runner game, but its prequel was universally hailed as the first and best. Temple Run 2 has a lot to live up to.
Brand New World
The first thing you’re going to notice when you boot up the game is the visual overhaul. My understanding is that the entire engine is brand new, and it shows. The game looks great on Retina displays, but still shines on the lower-resolution iPad mini. It’s not only that the game feels like its packing more polygons, but its art direction is simply stunning (especially compared to the first game). There is so much more attention to the environment, the lighting and even the character renderings that it visually renders the first game obsolete.
The next thing you’re going to notice is that everything feels much bigger in scale in Temple Run 2. Instead of three small evil monkeys running after you, there’s just one big one; it feels very reminiscent of the massive, terrifying bear in Temple Run: Brave. For the first time, I had a thought I never had when I played the original: “This beast is going to catch me and kill me. No matter what I do, I’m toast.”
Beyond that, there are a lot of small tweaks to the gameplay. There are power-ups that speed you up, or give you a shield or a coin magnet. The world simply feels a lot larger. The visual overhaul makes it feel more like a real Amazonian world with rivers, broken bridges and mines (you’ll race through them in a kart a la Indiana Jones).
Same Old Tricks
But despite the changes, the game isn’t much different than it was before. There’s certainly more variety in the environment, but I’m not sure that makes Temple Run 2 a better game. In some ways, because the environment doesn’t look as bland as before, you’ll recognize some scripted areas more often. It’s a compromise and a bit of a trade-off; a more immersive, memorable environment that feels a little more repetitive. On second thought, what wasn’t repetitive about the original game?
There aren’t too many wholly new gameplay mechanisms. The power-ups are the most interesting new idea, but they’re shallowly executed. One welcome improvement is the ability to save your life with the spending of in-game jewels that can either be acquired or purchased.
All in all, the whole game is designed to be further unlocked through in-app purchases. Temple Run didn’t have a lot of these, but its sequel really opens the floodgates. It makes sense; at some point, Imangi (which is still a small team) has to find a way to monetize. The ability to revive your character or buy in-game perks with real-world money isn’t surprising at this point, and it is ignorable. I never felt it was cumbersome.
One interesting new concept that Imangi is exploring is RPG-like levelling up in Temple Run 2. It’s a familiar mechanism at this point because it’s a big part of many iOS games, but it’s a welcome improvement. Endless runners are all about the immediate gratification of gaining points by collecting coins and completing non-invasive challenges. By allowing points and challenges to level up your character, Imangi increases the gratification of success while decreasing the pain of failure.
Essentially, the system is a refinement of what came before. It appeals to casual gamers while encouraging the sort of obsessive addictions that hardcore gamers thrive on. It’s a subtle change, but reminiscent of Imangi’s success on a whole with the new game. Temple Run 2 is about minor tweaks that the original Temple Run engine couldn’t handle.
That being said, sometimes the new engine is more than an iPad can handle. On my third-generation iPad (and apparently fourth-generation iPads as well), the game can be a little slow to respond. It’s not like the hardware isn’t there, so I suspect it can be fixed with a software patch, but it’s going to be frustrating with people who don’t have an alternative device to play the game on.
Oddly enough, the game plays much better on the less-powerful iPad mini. It’s smooth as butter. Regardless of its Retina display, even if it played as smoothly on the big iPad as it does on the mini, the iPad mini still provides a better experience because it only requires one hand. So if you have both devices, skip it on the full-sized iPad and just play it on the mini.
On the iPhone, I never encountered any issues with the game. Like the original, I think the accelerometer might be a little more sensitive on the iPhone than the iPad iterations, which can make it a bit easier to play. Still, even on the iPhone 5, it feels like the screen is too small to really appreciate the art direction.
If you have the luxury of choosing, the iPad mini is the device to play this game on. People with iPhones are still going to have great experiences, but those with full-sized iPads might want to wait for a performance-improving software update.
Should You Dare to Take the Idol?
After playing Temple Run 2 for a couple hours, I put the original back on to see how it felt. I couldn’t go back. Temple Run 2 is more interesting visually, features a few small new tweaks that helps enhance the game’s longevity, and has a lot more variety than the original. Of course, it’s not perfect. Despite its level of polish, the push towards in-game purchases is a little too strong for my liking and it’s disappointing the game doesn’t play as well on a full-sized iPad. Still, Imangi has been good about updating their games before and I think it’s worth giving them the benefit of the doubt. Regardless, I’d still rather play Temple Run 2 on my iPad 3 over the original.
Temple Run 2 may offer more small tweaks than it does huge improvements, but as it so frequently is, the sum is much bigger than the parts. It’s worth upgrading for the updated visuals alone, and the new gameplay tweaks rarely hinder the game (although they do prevent it from being as simple as the original). It’s an experience that’s so much more polished than its predecessor that the original is getting the boot from my iOS devices.