Retro Runner: Princess Power Review — Running Just to Catch Myself

The Princess is breaking out of her castle in Retro Runner: Princess Power.
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We all know infinite runners. From Jetpack Joyride, to Canabalt, to Team Fortress 2 mods, gamers have been traversing skylines, secret labs, twisting narrows, and more on practically every device available. You know what we haven’t seen a lot of, though? Story-based infinite runners.

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Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Polygons

No you did not misread that; Retro Runner: Princess Power is a story-based, linear, infinite runner. Do all the elements come together? Ehhh, kind of; the game has its fair share of issues on Android in spite of some promising ideas. For a first title with this much ambition, it’s at least an acceptable entrance for Stratum Games into the mobile market.

You are the titular Princess, waiting for the Prince to arrive. Except he seems to be too busy to bust you out, so you finally decide to try and free yourself. Fighting your way to the gates of your prison, you are stopped by the maleviolent captor holding you. He then challenges you to go back and try to escape again, making you go back through gaming history all the way to the Atari era.

Pixelated to Perfection

Here lies the core gimmick of Retro Runner. There are five worlds to explore, all heavily based on various eras in gaming. You start off in the Atari era, then trod through the NES era, a brief plod around the SNES era, a visit to the PS1 era, and then stop at the N64. Along the way you jump, drop, and shoot your way through a 2D plain.

I say stop at the N64 era as the “modern” setting actually looks the worst out of all the eras. Even the Atari era has a better, more polished look to it than what Stratum puts together for the final 2.5D setting, which is disappointing because some eras look fantastic. The NES to SNES levels in particular just look great, and they have some of the best music as well.

Gameplay doesn’t change nearly as much though.

Enemy variety is high and they become vastly more aggressive with each new stage, but overall you just tap to jump, tap to drop down, and hold a finger towards your opponents to aim and shoot. Power ups give combat some variety and a brief bit of strategy, but they never add any new ones so you’re using the same swords, homing pigeons, shurikens, and energy balls every time. Bosses thankfully make up for this by being just as varied as the enemies you fight.

Also, since this is a free to play title, there is a fair amount of grinding.

Not only can you revisit completed levels to gain more coins for the fairly robust upgrade system, but you retain all the coins you earn regardless of if you reach a level’s checkpoint. Power ups are not relegated to being premium items, priced fairly and only purchasable with in-game currency. You can enjoy the game without paying a dime, and they even offer a chance after every life to earn 50 free coins if you can answer a piece of videogame trivia correctly. Advertisements even have a fairly large “close” button so you’re less likely to accidentally go to a weblink.

Not In the Castle Anymore

Overall, it’s a solid game. I can certainly recommend it if you love infinite runners and/or hommages to old school gaming. The enemy variety, large number of upgrades, and great soundtrack all come together to offer a worthwhile experience.

That said, I do have to warn that those with thumbs that cramp may want to wait for the PC version, currently on Steam Greenlight. The default input controls can be hard on your left wrist and thumb during lengthier play sessions. For everyone else, you can snag yourself a copy of Retro Runner: Princess Power on either Android or iOS.

Retro Runner: Princess Power Review — Running Just to Catch Myself
The Princess is breaking out of her castle in Retro Runner: Princess Power.

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Elijah Beahm
Grumpily ranting at this computer screen since before you were playing Minecraft. For more of my work: