Some of you gamers out there may remember a GameStop ad campaign from a couple of years ago featuring a foul-mouthed little bunny named Buck who would find himself in funny situations as he made his way through fake versions of Mario-like 2D platforming games. For reference, there is a nice montage video on YouTube showing some of Buck's commercials. The ads were a hit, and there was even a short-lived game available on GameStop's website that let you play through a level featured in one of the commercials. Now, GameStop has given Buck another chance at video game stardom in a new iPhone game just released on the App Store called Buck and the Coin of Destiny [99¢].
Buck and the Coin of Destiny is an auto-running platforming game that have become quite popular with the success of games like Canabalt [$2.99] and Monster Dash [99¢]. There's a Story mode that has Buck running through five different video game-themed levels in an effort to get from the start to the finish of each level as the story of the Coin of Destiny unfolds. For example, one level is reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda games, one is very Castlevania-esque, and before and after each level are some funny animated Buck the Bunny cutscenes. Buck automatically runs to the right and tapping the screen allows you to jump or double-jump as you collect coins and powerups while avoiding spikes, pits, and enemies.
The five levels of the Story mode are fairly short, and it won't take too long to complete the whole campaign. However, there is an Arcade mode that lets you play through any of the five level themes in randomly generated endless fashion. This mode has the potential for unlimited replayability, but I do have one small gripe about it. You start the endless portion with only one heart, meaning if you hit any hazard it's instantly game over. Like the Story mode, you can pick up additional hearts along the way, up to a total of eight. That's fine for the Story levels that have a definitive ending, but in endless mode the ability to pick up additional hearts can cause a game to drag on for a pretty long time. I'd much prefer to see how far I can make it with the threat of instant death looming, or even just a cap of 3 or 4 hearts instead.
The gameplay in Buck and the Coin of Destiny isn't the best available in the running platform genre, but it's really not bad at all. The jumping controls are responsive, the level designs are interesting, and it's simple and fun to play. I'm really surprised by how much I continue to come back to Coin of Destiny. The Story portion is pretty short, but a fun ride while it lasts. The end of the game offers a “to be continued…” so the brevity may be rectified in the future with updates. The endless Arcade mode is a great addition to lengthen out the game, even if it does tend to drag on a bit. There's also a number of achievements to earn in the game, and local scores are kept for the Story mode and each individual Arcade level. Sadly there's no Game Center integration or online functionality other than the ability to share your scores over Facebook.
If you were familiar with the GameStop Buck commercials, like many of the players in our forums, then you'll likely get your dollar's worth of enjoyment on the cutscenes alone. If you don't really care about the Buck character but are looking for a new running platform game, then Buck and the Coin of Destiny really isn't a bad choice at all. I'd really like to see the game evolve with updates to add more content to the Story mode, some tweaks to the endless Arcade mode, and some sort of online functionality for achievements and high scores. There's a really nice foundation in place here, and even in its current state Buck and the Coin of Destiny is a solid running platformer for the price.
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