Has it really only been four years? Four years since Canabalt [$0.99] burst onto the scene and arguably created and inarguably popularized a genre? Looking around the App Store today, it's hard to remember a time before endless runners, let alone the idea that it's all happened in less time than it took to make a fourth Spider-Man movie. The genre has certainly built quite a bit on top of the framework set by its originator, as well. Perspective changes, missions, power-ups, level-ups, currency, vehicles, mini-games, character customization, and more have been added to the genre, resulting in amazing games like Temple Run [Free], Punch Quest [Free], and Jetpack Joyride [Free]. Still, as we felt when we recently took a look back at Canabalt, there's something about the game's minimalism and tight mechanics that allow it to continue to stand out among the razzle and dazzle of its successors.

I'm talking about all of this because in many ways, Boson X [$2.99] seems to have discarded almost all the frills and gimmicks developed in the last four years of evolution, going back to the core of what made Canabalt such a great game. There are no coins to pick up here, nor can you collect power-ups or count on upgrades to make your character stronger. There is your character, the path ahead of him, and precious little in the way of mercy. Momentum and lightning fast reflexes are the key to survival. That's not to say that the game ignores its contemporaries entirely, because there is a healthy splash of Super Hexagon [$2.99] on the canvass here as well.

Like that game, Boson X is both endless and not really endless. You play as a scientist trapped inside of an experiment, running and jumping from platform to platform, with the slightest misstep resulting in annhilation. By running along certain special platforms, you'll build up a percentage meter, and once it reaches 100%, you'll discover a new particle, and the speed will pick up significantly. Once you've discovered the particle, you will have unlocked the next stage, and are free to move on, but if you have the skills, you can keep running as long as you're able.

Also like Super Hexagon, your movement is rotational. The platforms broadly form in the shape of a tunnel, and you can move clockwise or counter-clockwise around it, one jump at a time. That's all your character can do, in fact. Jump left, jump right, or jump forward, all accomplished by touching either side of the screen or both sides at once. The longer you hold the touch, the longer he'll stay in the air, and this dude's hang time could put Jordan to shame. Like any runner, the game will move faster the longer you play, but, as in Canabalt, there's an advantage to that in Boson X. You can jump farther the faster you're running, which is vital to clearing some huge gaps you might encounter if you choose your path poorly.

There are six different stages to the game in all. What's remarkable is that each stage actually feels quite different to the next. Certain obstacles will show up more frequently in some stages than others, and although the stages are randomized to an extent, you can definitely feel a theme for the hazards of each one. Suitably, each stage also its own unique look and sound. A lot of that is down to color choices, but as with the hazards, certain design elements will be unique to each stage. Boson X demands that you learn new strategies for each level and insists on your lack of comfort. As you would expect from a game that feels like the progeny of Canabalt and Super Hexagon, it's a very challenging game, and you'll need to find your way into that wonderful place we refer to as the zone to make much progress.

screen1136x1136-56

Fortunately, finding your way into that zone isn't too hard. The game's visuals and soundtrack will give you a lot of help with that task. It's a fairly simple looking game, with a lot of flat-shaded objects and a purposely limited color palette for each stage. Your character stands out nicely against the background, with his suit evoking the lead of Canabalt, but pocket patches telling you he's a professor. Important objects like unstable platforms and the important research platforms are all given their own unique color to ensure that they, too, stand out from the rest of the course. The music, a mix of synth that calls to mind 1980s science fiction, is unique to each stage, and sets the pace perfectly. The UI is excellent, giving the appearance of an experiment while maintaining accessibility. Importantly, the retry button is right where you're going to want to jam on it after failing for the 20th time.

Boson X will not offer you a bread crumb trail of rewards or new hats. It's not going to ask you to come back every day for a daily reward, and it has no IAP to sell you. Its only offer to you is the challenge of unlocking all the stages, and beating the best scores you and your friends have set down. Yet, somehow, through a mix of style and very measured mechanics, it's an amazingly compelling game. It's my opinion that with this game, we finally have the behind-the-back response to the side-scrolling Canabalt. Sure, it wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but sometimes, inspiration leads to brilliance, and so it is with Boson X.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • thestapler

    Looks like one of those perfectly frustrating games. Takes me back to Skyroads days.

  • whitestatic

    This is one of the few genres that no matter how hard I try, I just can't get into. I think I just need a bit more story or purpose. I haven't seen any of these endless games "explain" why the character/avatar must run/roll/jump/ forever.

    • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

      I know, and I usually have that exact same complaint. But I actually enjoy this one - it's quite a challenge.

      • whitestatic

        Thanks! will definitely add to watch list to check out after I finish what I currently have.

    • Bob

      Personally, I really appreciate a game that is this focused and stream-lined. The lack of a story doesn't bother me at all...

      • whitestatic

        Understood, wrt personal preferences. I watch the video and my most basic question is why is this guy running and jumping around these platforms down this corridor that lasts forever. But it's more of a genre question than anything unique to this game, which is why I'm not knocking the game or the rating. People that love endless runners will love well done endless runners, I get that. We all have genre preferences and while I like but don't gravitate towards sports games, I "get" them. I don't "get" endless runners so when I see one that gets 5-stars my curiosity is piqued. I'll check it out, I just want to have some semblance of caring about helping the character achieve some kind of tangible objective (beyond competing on game center for high scores). That's simply my preference.

      • Bob

        I actually prefer games that have no narrative to be honest - at least when it comes to games on my iphone. I almost never stay interested long enough to "finish the story" so to speak. For this, I can play it and enjoy it for what it is - a game.

      • whitestatic

        I'll ignore the last sentence as the definition for what constitutes a game is too variable and personal. I get your personal preferences, and while I appreciate your comments, I don't see an answer to a very basic question about this specific genre. I find it hard to believe that the genre as a whole eschews story (even a basic one) because gamers don't want it--that feels like a cop out.

      • Bob

        I'm not sure what kind of story you'd want in a game like this. Do I need a story to enjoy Pac Man or Donkey Kong? I mean the Mario games are about "saving a princess" but the games themselves don't really follow any sort of narrative that makes sense really. For me, I just don't even pause to consider the story in a game like this. It is what it is - It's a story about a guy who simply MUST keep running! :)

      • whitestatic

        Ha! This is becoming a bit more of an existentialist discussion than I was prepared for and the answer may just simply be that the genre is what is (even a game like Temple Run, I found difficult to disengage from asking "Is that statue really worth all this running?").

      • jamarohn

        You, my friend, are a patient man. :)

      • MkRwilliams

        Amen

        What i also find funny is... How did you get "Bob" as your username?!?!? :)

  • worldcitizen1919

    It looks like a load of rubbish. Are you guys having a betting competition to see who falls for your hype? Not this one guys. This is crap even if you gave it 5 stars.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      It sounds like you've played it extensively.

      • Goggles789

        He doesn't need to have played it to choose not to like it. Maybe it doesn't fit his inclinations? I personally love the game, but if it didn't grab me on the first impression I would have been less likely to try it, too. I just don't see why he just got jumped on for stating that he doesn't like a game. Geeze...

      • Gfish

        Uhm... he did just jump on the reviewer for stating it was a good game.

    • metalcasket

      Regardless of whether the TA forum rules apply out here or not, I have to get something off my chest: You, dear sir...are a twat. No more, no less.

    • Hoggy110

      Fail troll is fail

  • mattdolby

    It's as addictive and brilliant as Super Hexagon and it reminds me of Rez from my PS days. Love it.

  • http://howtomake-a-videogame.weebly.com/ Steve

    This seems quite nice and trippy but most of the new releases are infinite runners -.-

  • Goggles789

    I think all the SH references are inaccurate. I played both games, and they were like two totally different experiences. I felt ripped off with SH, and I hated the pointless frustration level it brought me to. Boson X is a completely different experience, in my opinion. It's way more engaging, and frustrating to the point where you want to overcome the challenge, not throw the app away.

    • m1ta

      The artistic design of the game, mechanics and soundtrack are at least somewhat reminiscent of Super Hexagon. I can see why people are making the comparison. Although, I would agree that Boson X is very much a different game. For me Boson X offers slightly more variety, although the controls aren't quite as sharp. Both are excellent games.

    • mr_bez

      There was an interesting interview with the dev on Pocket Gamer about a month ago where he says that Super Hexagon came out during development of Boson X and they completely changed the design as a result. It used to be on a flat plane, much easier and with more randomised platforms.

  • Kyle

    I feel like there's a couple layers to this game that many aren't experiencing.

    1) The first level / tutorial. Slow, boring. (As shown in the TA first impressions video)

    2) Level four is where it starts to get fast and interesting. This is the real "start" of the game where you will need to start paying attention to the patterns. (Sort of shown in the official trailer above)

    3) Level six is Super Hexagon level difficulty and will probably take at least an hour to beat.

    4) Then you go back to the other levels and play them beyond 100%. Level one at 350%+ has me tapping as fast as in SH. I can't imagine what kind of game it is on level 6 at 300%+ but according to the PC/Mac/Linux leaderboards it's possible.

    A big bonus this game has over SH is that all six levels are completely different and being good on level six doesn't mean you'll be good be good at level three. I do wish there was a something akin to hyper mode so I could practice at high speeds without spending a couple minutes building up percentage.

  • TheRybka

    Is there anything to unlock other than new levels? That's honestly the only staying power that endless runners seem to have on me.

  • InkyTheGhost

    Decided to give this a shot after winning GOTW and the great review. It's definitely fun for a while, but...I don't know. It's back to Pocket Trains for me.

    • Bytebrain

      Play at least until you reach level 3.
      That's when the real fun begins.
      The game gets significantly harder from level 4, it'll test your reflexes to their limit.

      • InkyTheGhost

        I don't mean to say I don't like it. I do. I made it level 3, and it's certainly challenging in a fun way. I know it's not fair to compare it to Pocket Trains, but for me PT is just a way better game all around. And I'm not even a fan of the build/sim genre.
        I guess I was just expecting something more since it beat PT as GOTW.

  • gabuas

    Too manu games are getting 5stars or 4.5 i think you guys should start being more of a critic and consider a 3 star game a good game and 5 stars should be somethong out of this world.

  • Frank Hopewell-Smith

    There's a version of this on Android - but it is free and wants a lot of access to private info. It is only 1MB and is by a company called 'green forest'. I think it may be malware - so be careful

    • DannyTheElite

      Fake. Just fake. It's a rip off version .

  • pixelpowa

    This game is near-perfect. I'm having an absolute blast; it's more than worth the two bucks.

  • Zenfar

    Good looking game, glad to see experimentation

  • http://www.ebog.me/ ebog

    I find it really interesting game to play. Rated up to 5 stars is not child's play is ridiculous. You should try to play it once.

Boson X Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 5