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Running with Friends

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

First, second, and third impressions

Product: Running with Friends | Developer: Zynga | Publisher: Zynga | Format: iPhone | Genre: Arcade, Multiplayer | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 1.51
Running with Friends iPhone, thumbnail 1
This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. Click on the links to go straight to day three or day seven.

I love the idea of the "... with Friends" series, I really do. I get to enjoy multiplayer sessions with my friends, but we don't have to go through the painful process of coordinating our schedules to go head-to-head.

The way they work is very simple: you set a score in your chosen game, then your friend sets a score when he can find the time. You compete with each other, swapping scores back and forth, until someone wins against a defined set of parameters.

It works for Scrabble and chess. But does this idea work for an endless-runner? I've got a week to find out.

First impressions

Say what you like about Zynga - people often do - you can't fault its production values. Running with Friends looks lovely, with a colourful and cheerful innocence to the design of the little characters.

Which is quite jarring, considering the harrowing situation they're forced into: they have to try and outrun a rampaging bull for as long as they can, down a busy street filled with obstacles just waiting to trip them up.

You can choose from a small selection of bobblehead avatars when you begin the game, or drop real money to buy others. They're a fun bunch, my favourite being a moustachioed man with a monobrow, and I'm playing as him at the moment.

In terms of actual gameplay, though, this is nothing you haven't seen elsewhere. It's essentially Temple Run or Subway Surfers, replete with bonus power-ups such as a magnet to attract stars towards you.

There are three channels you can run down, and you swipe left or right to move between them. Flicking up makes you jump, doing the opposite has you slide under obstacles or smash through a few of the weaker ones.

It's decent enough, and I'm more than happy to keep playing.

Day 3: Bagsy Oddjob

It's amazing how much better a game can be when you've got friends around to play it. Take GoldenEye on N64 - where the fairly naff single-player of the classic Nintendo 64 game was stiff and unyielding, the multiplayer encouraged creativity and flexibility.

IAPs explained
Gems are the premium currency, and you earn them very gradually through playing the game.

You can also buy Gems in batches, and the minimum spend is 69p / 99c (for 1,000 of the suckers). It's just about enough for a new character, but not for one of the really cool-looking ones.
Running with Friends's appeal is similarly lifted when you get a really good rivalry going with a few pals, or even with randoms on the internet.

As with the Rare game of old, you start to look past its faults - in this case, a lack of experimentation on the endless-runner formula - and you simply enjoy the friendly competition that asynchronous multiplayer provides.

I've built a bit of a rivalry with a person going by the name TaddG, and I'm checking in more regularly with the game to ensure that I fire back my score whenever my opponents post theirs.

Likewise, Jeff Scott (from 148Apps) and I are playing a game, and because he hasn't responded in a few days I felt compelled to give him a Nudge (something I wouldn't dream of doing in real life).

It's compulsive stuff, fuelled on by the devilish nag of push notifications, even if the game itself is conspicuously lacking in originality. There are a few days left before the end of this review, so we'll see if I'm still as enthusiastic when the week ends.

Day 7: Baron SamedIAP

After a week of Running with Friends, I can say with confidence that there's a little more to it than basic running and avoiding.

There are optional Boosts that confer score bonuses during play, such as extra stars when you smash through crates, pulverise barrels, hop over bulls, and so on.

You don't have to use them, and they'll cost you Gems if you do, but your score is likely to be dramatically increased when you do. You build Gems up naturally though play, but you can also turn the tide in your favour decisively by investing a fraction of your real-life fortune.

The only idea that isn't completely played out is the shortcuts. A street sign points to special side alleys you can turn down, and should you successfully complete these rock-hard sections you'll be given massive chunks of points.

Running with Friends is a good-looking, free-to -play, ultra-social endless-runner that sadly never attempts much that's new. If you thought Temple Run needed a multiplayer hook, and you're still not sick of the genre, then you'll very much enjoy your time with Zynga's latest.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.
Running with Friends
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 24 May 2013
There's nothing in Running with Friends you haven't seen before in the endless-runner genre, but it's presented well enough, and can be very enjoyable with a few friends
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