For the low, low price of $2.99 you can own your own personal finger treadmill, right on your iPhone. This portable phalanges fitness device will transport you to running destinations like a perilous beach or a dangerous mountaintop, through which your can scroll until you can barely lift a finger for the Home button. You know, if that sounds fun to you.
iRuuner is broken down into five different modes, 100 meter sprint, 100 meter hurdles, 300 meter beach circuit, 300 meter mountain circuit and a training option. In each you drag your fingers down across the iPhone screen to “run” across the ground, as fast as you can. Training focuses on working out your stride and pacing before you really “compete” in one of the four events. Since there is not much to be gained in training and only time to be lost in actually playing through the other events, it seems like a pointless feature. Really, it’s best to dive into the speedy and straightforward 100 meter event, as there are no obstacles in your way. The race moves quickly and the lack of obstacles makes it one of the more furiously absorbing stages.
In 100 meter hurdles, the game introduces you to “jumping” or avoiding obstacles by not dragging your fingers when the hurdle appear on screen. When you hit an obstacle you are slowed, and it is difficult to get back up to speed. In the 300 meter beach and mountain circuits you need to avoid “finger fatigue” as well as items like surfboards, beach balls, logs and boulders. While that cluttered up vacation spot is no beach I’d like to visit, the screens were cheerfully colorful. The obstacles did cycle and repeat too noticeably for it to be a real pleasure to watch, but if you are running as fast as you should be it would all be a blur anyway.
The game’s challenge focuses on reaction time and pacing. If you are running at a steady pace there is no real warning as to when an obstacle will appear on screen, making them very difficult to avoid. Your best bet is to try pacing yourself and counting finger strides between obstacles, a finicky sort of challenge. All of your best times are recorded locally, and each time you complete a race you have the option to upload the score. When you select an event you can choose between racing your own high score or downloading the reigning champions fastest time so that you can compete against that. The latter is a helpful way to know when uploading your own finish time is worth the effort and associated bragging rights.
The game-play is basic, and well-suited to idle mobile gaming, but it is not particularly absorbing. Additionally, if you are a woman and have fingernails of even moderate length the scrolling action required for running is incredibly awkward as you have to hold your fingers at an acute angle to the screen. The real “fun” of iRunner is that if you are diligent enough to push through the pain and achieve a high score you can receive a genuine prize like a plasma TV, gaming consoles and games, or an additional iPhone.
iRunner’s $2.99 price tag seems to be a reflection of the prizes offered for those that excel at the game, rather than the value of the game-play itself. Really, picking up iRunner is more like buying a lotto ticket or paying a registration fee to enter a competition. The real reward is in the prize, not in screen scrolling.