Chameleon Run
Cost: $1.99
Seller: Noodlecake Studios Inc
Devices: iOS and Android
Rating: E for Everyone

Pros: Inexpensive. Great tutorials. Easy to grasp.
Cons: Check to see if your heart can take the pace.

First impressions

I don’t know why I’m drawn to these games that I know are going to age me. I love puzzle solving creations and anything that teaches me something new, but inevitably I find my head being turned by apps that test my eye-hand coordination.

The last time I tried a Temple Run game was when Brave was in the theaters and a version hit the App Store with Merida running from a bear. Holy hell, did I struggle with that game. I had to gather coins, shoot arrows at targets and have her avoiding traps, all at the same time. It’s a good thing I quit when I did, or I would have sent our poor heroine to the ER. I had her flying off cliffs, dropping into ravines and generally struggling to get any distance at all.

I found my heart pounding, like I was the one racing for my life. It took me back to the heady days of when I used to play Doom 3 and the like for hours on end. I’d be terrified to enter each room, wondering what beastie was lurking in the shadows.

Anyway, enough of my geeky past. Despite my better judgment, I resolved to be a calmer, more relaxed person, capable of handing high velocity games with ease, and so I downloaded the recommended Chameleon Run.

Obstacles get more difficult as the levels go on, but make sure you keep your character the correct color at all times, or it'll be curtains.
Obstacles get more difficult as the levels go on, but make sure you keep your character the correct color at all times, or it’ll be curtains.

How it works

The fast explanation of Chameleon Run’s design is to say that there’s a blocky little man who keeps running and you have to ensure that he clears obstacles while changing his color to match the surface on which he is presently located.

The slower explanation covers some finer details.

For starters, the app is quite good at taking you through some test runs before it leaves you to your own devices. The first level is all tutorial. You are taught that tapping the right hand side of your device will make him jump, and tapping the left hand side will change his color from yellow to pink and back again.

He starts moving forward and you’ll try out these controls when he comes across gaps and newly hued surfaces. Once you become comfortable with hopping, it’ll tell you that by holding down your right thumb (or finger, toe, whatever), you can make him jump further.

So far, so good.

This level is named First Steps, and what follows are other named levels: Warm Up, The Beginning, Here We Go, and others. The titles seem to indicate an app that understands it may take a while for gamers to get to grips with its speed.

Right after the Here We Go level is another tutorial. You can’t say that Chameleon Run isn’t doing all it can to help us along the way. This one is called Double Jump, where you learn how to make your character do just that. I won’t spoil it by telling you how.

The game is based on a very simple concept, but of course it’s never that simple in reality, is it?

You’ll discover that every time you fail and send your character to his spectacular death, you don’t get a chance to breathe before you’re back at the beginning of the level and he’s running again. Thankfully he has a bit of a distance to cross before he encounters his first obstacle.

There are bubbles to gather, just like the coins in the Temple Run game I mentioned earlier, but you may only care about reaching the end when you first try this app. Plenty of time to gather ye bubbles while ye may when you’re more comfortable with it.

Tap the right hand side of your screen to make him jump, and the left to change his color.
Tap the right hand side of your screen to make him jump, and the left to change his color.

When I played it

I breezed through the tutorials. The app was praising me all over the place as I neatly jumped over chasms, gathered bubbles and changed color at the right points. However, when it came to being left on my own, I panicked.

I jumped when I should have changed color, and changed color when I should have been jumping. The result was one spectacular accident after the next. I sent my pink runner flying into a yellow obstacle, watched him break into many pieces, and then start all over again, only for me to make the same mistakes. I couldn’t help myself – I kept tapping both sides of my iPad at the same time.

I have to believe that a drummer would be fantastic at this app, only because he or she has to keep different rhythms on different instruments all at the same time. A drummer and someone who can walk and chew gum at the same time. Yeah, those are the ideal candidates.

I did manage to get past the Double Jump stage after about 30 minutes of play. I’m surprised my guy wasn’t all tuckered out by then. One of the design decisions I’m happy about is the length of track he has to cover – it isn’t very long. The Temple Run games go on and on, so each level of Chameleon Run is relatively short in comparison.


Final thoughts

There is something seductively addictive about this app. Even when I was getting frustrated with it, I found myself going back to it a bit later to try again. I actually found that I was much more skilled in the evening when I was calmer and more relaxed. I didn’t frantically tap away at my device, sending the runner through jarring episodes of yellow and pink while he skittered and jumped randomly until inevitable death.

For the bargain price of $1.99, why not give it a try?

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