The App Store gives us a lot of options to kill time. We have games from Angry Birds to Temple run and now (THRED). Not only does it have all the qualities of the freeware we enjoy, it also delivers an important message.
The game is a psychedelic “runner” of sorts developed by BitMonster in association with Coke and the charity (RED). BitMonster already has earned reputation for making stunning games on IOS devices that run off Unreal 3 engine, the most popular being Lily. (THRED) is, for all intents and purposes, just as visually stunning as their previous efforts.
Part of what makes the game so gorgeous is its style. The game looks almost like you are travelling through veins collecting white blood cells. However, that underlying theme is masked by its a cyber world setting and space like atmosphere, but what we are left with is one of the most unique visual experiences we have ever seen on the App Store.
You play as a lonesome spacecraft trying to make your way through the terrain safely as you collect orbs and upgrade your power ups while trying to avoid asteroids and helixial spirals.
Asteroids aren’t the only things to worry about in this technological cosmos as the controls, while simple, take a bit of getting used to. You use your finger to drag the ship in whatever direction you’d like, but this is easier said than done. To start, finding the sweet spot to place your finger will take some time. Maybe it is because we have bulky hands, but the iPhone screen is by no means colossal. It was hard to find a spot where we could feel in control while still being able to see the screen. Even then, the control did feel limited. At times it felt as though our directions weren’t registering on the screen, making unfair deaths almost natural until we got the hang of it.
With that being said, once we mastered the controls, we had tons of fun racking up points on the leaderboard.
Your score is determined by how long you can stay alive. This is where the orb collecting comes in handy as they act as a currency to upgrade your ship. You have three power ups; the first is Pulse, which acts as a shockwave to destroy any obstacles you may face. The second is Phoenix; it is similar to the Super Mario invincibility star, destroying anything you touch. The final is the orb magnet. Upgrading the power ups does make the game easier. Adding a little more health does take a little bit of the challenge away, but makes each play through last a little longer.
With all the good that comes from the upgrades, there is a major flaw. You can purchase orbs. This is where our charitable side kicked in though. All the money from purchased items, excluding taxes, goes to Global Fund to help research treatments for HIV/AIDS in Africa. While the money does go to a great cause, there is always a sense of unfairness. Like we can buy our way to victory.
If you choose to stick with the more grinding route though, there is a sense of achievement as you advance. The more you progress in the game, the more the world changes. The colours and patterns begin to mutate and the music begins to pick up as well.
The music was a double-edged sword for us however. Electronic dance giants Tiësto, DJ Poet and TOKiMONSTA created the exclusive sound track that fits with the game, but it feels kind of generic. With big names like those working on the sound track we expected something a little more unique. It definitely isn’t their best work and it won’t blow you away, but the computerized sound is soothing and as it increases in intensity it suits the game’s atmosphere. It is definitely good enough to get the job done.
Good enough shouldn’t be the end goal here however-- it’s sponsored by freaking Coca Cola, a company known for quality. There is room for improvement. It looks cool and plays well, but with one of the biggest brands on the planet funding it, there is always a feeling that more could have been done here. This isn’t a new experience by any means, and while it is addictive, we couldn’t help but think we’ve played this before just in a different skin.
For a free download though, you can’t go wrong with (THRED). Despite its initial difficulty, the easily accessible controls, addictive gameplay and good cause should be enough to make you want to pay, play and collect a little more while on the go.