Not many games can claim to have started genres, but Canabalt is definitely one of them: its endless running mechanic is as simple as it is innovative, and the game has spawned a long succession of imitators.
Some of these imitators - like Jetpack Joyride and Temple Run - have succeeded in spicing things up with coins to collect, and Subway Surfers belongs to this new breed of endless runners. In fact, if you think of it as Temple Run in a Tony Hawk map you won't go far wrong.
You play as a kid in sneakers and hoodie, being chased down train tracks by a fat guard and his dog for vandalising the sides of trains with graffiti.
Swipes make you roll, jump, and side-step as the speed and threat level picks up. Clip something and the guard closes. Hit a wall or train and it's Game Over.
Power-ups are inevitably available, like a hoverboard, springy shoes, and a rocketpack, all of which last a short time and are upgradeable in the store, where you can also buy fast starts, random boxes, and all the usual psychological tricks.
Subway Surfers really is a perfect combination of Jetpack Joyride and Temple Run, though it's more parsimonious than both. After a while, the grinding becomes so onerous - exacerbated by unresponsive controls - that you're more or less forced to either pay to hasten your progress or stop playing altogether.
Thanks largely to the game's unresponsive controls, you'll find yourself failing a lot. You can restart instantly, but unless you're getting further through skill you don't enjoy a real sense of purpose - just a compulsive loop of coin-collecting and upgrade-purchasing until the coins dry up and you arrive at the IAP crossroads: pay or go.
If you've already romped your way through the endless runners mentioned above and others then Subway Surfers is a solid - if uninspired - next destination.
Want more? Check out our growing collection of Subway Surfers articles!