Long distance running is a lonely affair, if the title of the short story by Alan Sillitoe is anything to go by.
Dead Runner, a high score chasing title from Distinctive Developments, isn’t quite as intent on fighting the establishment as that story.
Rather, it sticks closely to a format that’s been around since 3D Death Chase on the ZX Spectrum. Having said that, it does share the loneliness.
The aim in Dead Runner is to sprint as far as possible through a randomly-created, increasingly thick wood at night, presumably due to an unseen and unheard pursuer (it's never fully explained).
This sense of being pursued is helped by some excellent, drawn-out synth pads that hum and vibrate as the wood gets thicker.
The misty graphics - monochrome with only vague tints of colour - ooze atmosphere, and the inclusion of grave stones marking the resting place of previous runs (that you can also crash into) is a clever way of visualising how well you’re doing.
The running is performed automatically, leaving the player to tilt the phone in order to alter direction. Hitting a bush slows the runner down whereas smacking into a tree kills him instantly, leaving the aforementioned gravestone on the spot for you to crash into on the next run.
The two modes, Distance and Points, don’t play out much differently from one another, with Points adding glowing orbs that automatically boost the speed (and points, natch) as opposed to Distance’s unrelenting acceleration.
Mind that tree
The hit-area of the screen seems a lot wider than it should be, taking in a good central chunk of the screen, which can be disorientating at very high speeds. There is a bit of leeway given should you not directly hit an obstacle, but it'll catch you out on the first few runs.
After you've adjusted to this bigger-than-expected hitbox, though, Dead Runner falls into that familiar pattern of dodging ever denser trees and nudging your high-score ever higher.
The greatest disappointment with the game is that there’s no way of comparing or sharing this score with anyone. While the iPhone original came with OpenFeint support, the Android version remains stubbornly detached from any form of social gaming network.
This absence of competition doesn’t impact on the shallow but enjoyable gameplay, but does mean that Dead Runner will reach the finish line on your mobile’s memory a lot sooner than it could have.