Of all the endless runner styles to be found on the App Store, none are quite as visually captivating or as polished as Laser Dog’s Alone. It’s a barebones tale of an unknown space explorer in a one-man escape pod, hurtling through winding caverns while avoiding danger.
But with that barebones plot comes similarly simple gameplay: Alone is really nothing new for the medium. This is comparable to Jetpack Joyride and games of that ilk (alongside the many clones) and aside from some refined visuals and a great soundtrack, there’s really nothing new or enticing here.
It’s a shame really, because although gameplay should be at the forefront of any good game, it almost feels like an afterthought here. The game sees you using a finger to drag the speedy escape pod up and down the screen, avoiding walls, rocks and even projectiles which will fire towards you. Hit a wall and it’s instant death, but the other objects will deplete the recharging shield, only destroying the pod when unshielded. It’s very fast-paced and – at the start at least- very fun.
This is a game which relies on replayability and going for that high score, playing the game over and over until you can beat your previous best. And while there’s definitely an incentive in playing again, as you’ll unlock the next difficulty level by reaching 4000m in the current one (which can be very hard), there’s none of the usual trinkets you’d expect – such as challenges each round – and most of those can be found in the achievements.
There is support for GameCenter, so there’s plenty of opportunities to beat your friends’ high scores as well as your own, but I honestly felt quite bored of the game after trying a few times – it just doesn’t manage to have that hook that I’ve found in other games of the App Store, although the world is varied and procedurally generated in each run. Despite that, there’s still some fun to be found with the tight controls which are matched by close-quarters caverns.
Yes, in terms of gameplay it’s nothing special, but that’s just part of the package; there’s just something about the art style in Alone that screams high quality, and it’s a marvellous sight in action. There are some great lightning and rain effects, sharp edges to signify danger, a varied colour palette which is used to great effect, and the game also makes great use of parallax scrolling and backgrounds to create something really special to look at – there are planets, parts of ships and more floating in the world behind your character and it really sets the scene.
On top of this, there’s a superb soundtrack which builds as you play, adding to the pressure as you get further in your journey. It all comes together to create something which really evokes the meaning of that title, with you controlling what is effectively a tiny dot in a vast world.
But at a price of £1.99 – or $2.99 – on the store (which may go down to £1.49 before release, but don’t expect it to drop to free), there’s just not enough variety here. Perhaps a few years ago the stunning visuals would have put it ahead, but in a market saturated with similar games, this is ultimately a case of style over substance.