In this day and age, it takes more than a fresh coat of paint to differentiate oneself in the endless runner genre. While Chillingo's Dream Chaser [Free] certainly succeeds in bringing its own visual flair, its the game's story mode (in addition to the secondary endless mode) that gives it a leg-up on a lot of the competition. However, a few annoying issues with the story mode and graphics keep Dream Chaser from loftier heights.
The first thing you'll probably notice about Dream Chaser is its nicely done presentation. For example, I enjoyed the game's celestial tunes, which were very befitting of the theme. In addition, Dream Chaser looks great and ran with a fast and stable FPS rate. Despite this, I noticed a good deal of graphical pop-up which ranged from being an annoyance to actually impacting the gameplay at faster speeds and later difficulties.
Gameplay-wise Dream Chaser plays like most other endless runners with a tilt-based control scheme, loads of currency (called orbs) to collect and a distance/multiplier secondary score mechanic. One feature that's somewhat unique is the game's 'Boost' mechanism, which speeds up your character and increases the currency collection multiplier at the cost of faster speed. It's a nice risk/reward feature that works well for an endless runner that relies on fast reflexes.
Unlike the majority of endless runners out on the field, Dream Chaser includes both the standard endless mode as well as a mission-based story mode. Endless mode is what you'd expect, with players racing against a perpetual clock avoiding obstacles, collecting orbs and trying to get to the next checkpoint which resets the timer. Story mode, meanwhile, is a mission-based mode centered around completing a variety of objectives that all center around running a gauntlet before a timer runs out.The story itself, which follows a night spirit named Nito has he works to repair the realm of the gods, is light-hearted but mostly standard.
While Dream Chaser does a decent job differentiating itself simply by including a story mode, I wasn't a big fan of how it was implemented. Unlike the game's endless mode, Chaser's story mode features a set life bar that depletes when players run into obstacles. If you run out of life, fall into a chasm or fail to complete the mission within the time limit, you lose a 'heart' and are given the opportunity to retry the level. Unfortunately, you can only store a certain amount of hearts, and if you run out you either have to wait an obnoxiously long period of time or spend your hard-earned orbs on hearts to instantly continue playing the story mode.
Considering that later levels ramp up the difficulty, making it entirely possible to go through many (even all) of your stored hearts in a single run Dream Chaser's story mode ends up being needlessly frustrating. True, endless mode is always available and its not too hard to earn enough orbs to buy hearts and continue, but those orbs could be better spent on the variety of power-up upgrades and optional items available in the endless mode itself vice the silly heart mechanic. In the end, it all feels like an artificial method of encouraging IAP.
It's really a shame because outside of this frustrating facet of the game's story mode (as well as the pop-up) Dream Chaser isn't that bad of an endless runner. As it stands, genre fans will probably still find it worth checking out, if anything for its style and story mode. For everyone else, it's probably worth a pass.
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