In 2009, Canabalt created a whole new genre – one that proved a perfect fit for the bite-size playing sessions and touchscreen control schemes of mobile gaming.
Since then, the endless-runner template has been augmented again and again by genre newcomers. Vector, for instance, added an expansive parkour moveset, while the likes of Jetpack Joyride bolted on objective systems that added compulsive variety to a fundamentally repetitive formula.
More recently, Into the Dead has re-imagined the endless-runner as a visceral first-person experience. So, although the template is well-worn, it's clear that developers are still finding novel ways to iterate on Canabalt's spark of invention.
Running the wrong way
By these standards, I Must Run! is a bit of a throwback. There are no objectives to beat, there's no parkour spectacle to enjoy, and there are no novel perspectives to inhabit. Instead, you just… well, run.
Initially, you'll run through driving rain as you escape a sprawling prison complex, hopping between concrete rooftops and punching aside any and all obstacles in your path. Once you've flown the penal coop, you'll jump across rickety train carriages in a rundown subway.
In fact, a change of scenery takes place every few minutes in I Must Run!'s campaign mode, and it goes some way to enlivening an otherwise fairly barebones title. Indeed, some may consider this stripped-down focus a virtue – and it certainly makes for a pure high-score challenge.
But the lack of any novel additions or addictive objectives leaves I Must Run! without a unique draw to call its own.
Stop and smell the roses
The closest I Must Run! gets to a unique selling point is its gorgeous background art. All of its locations are rendered in a detailed pixel-art style, with plenty of dynamic flourishes to draw the eye.
Foreground objects are embellished with a pleasing amount of incidental detail, an abundance of lighting and weather effects inject drama into each run, and effective use of parallax scrolling lends a real sense of depth to the multi-layered 2D backdrops.
But pretty set dressing can only go so far to make up for uninspired gameplay, and that leaves I Must Run! as just a solid addition to a crowded genre.