Super Mole Escape
Regular readers of Modojo will know by now that an endless-runner has to go some distance to get anything other than a wearily raised eyebrow from me. They are everywhere and they crop up like weeds. The worse you seem to treat them, the faster they come back for more.
I should have learned to give Adult Swim more credit than this by now. Its previous game Velocirapture, as well as the older but equally sublime Robot Unicorn Attack, remain two of my favorite dip-in games, and have both stood the ultimate test of not being uninstalled from my iPad the moment a review is completed. To say the publisher has an eye for quirky, addictive, refreshing games is to make a gross understatement.
Super Mole Escape's rather generic name belies the incredible flair and variety contained within. It's an endless, frantic assault, where you burrow vertically down the screen, dodging spinning blades, mushroom pinball bumpers, lazer beams, enemies that gobble you up, and roaring fire pits as you scoop up as many speed-boosting gems as you can.
You can buy various headstarts and revival boosts with those gems, but you simply won't care about using them because Mole Escape's greatest triumph is to make every section of the game fun, not just the more challenging, late-game sections that other runners typically rely on for engagement.
Rather than upgrading one solitary character over the course of what comes to feel like a lifetime, there's a whole host of freedom runners to be unlocked and upgraded. Each one possesses a unique blend of stats and power-up proficiencies, providing endless variety in gameplay.
Some have a natural gift for speed, while others are better at accelerating away from the game-ending prison warden who chases you relentlessly through the underground. If you prefer to clatter your way to freedom, a character blessed with greater strength will fare better against the obstacles in each run.
Most incredibly of all, I don't give two hoots that there is an in-app purchase store which can give you a leg-up when upgrading those stats. I am a mole. I fly through rainbows, lava pits, star-filled skies, and I am immune to your attempts to commercialise my metamorphosis. Even better, I can do this in the competitive company of another mole in the Versus mode. Wonderful.
As well as possessing some fabulous visuals, the game's soundtrack is crafted from the same sort of frenetic, twangy, psychedelic guitar mash-ups that Adult Swim is famous for. In gameplay, music, visuals, excitement, challenge, variety, and just plain good old-fashioned fun, Super Mole Escape is magnificent.
Is it a perfect game? No, both the tilt and touch controls are a little too sluggish on the iPad certainly, and you'll need to spend no small amount of time adjusting the control sensitivities to find a setting that suits. That generous avalanche of variety can also be a game-ender too, as the game struggles occasionally to deliver a balanced slice of gameplay from this ridiculous mix of flavors.
Still, with all that said you won't play a more experimental, risky, fun and flamboyant endless-runner this year, and for that reason alone we're happy to recommend this as the best example of genre evolution we've seen in a very long time indeed. Bravo.
What's Hot: Incredible variety, great music, beautiful art and a refreshing reboot for the genre.
What's Not: You'll need to spend some time refining the controls, and the game can sometimes throw a little too much at you.