Imangi Studios’ Temple Run is synonymous with the endless runner genre. Though mobile handset marketplaces are flooded with titles claiming to offer progression in the genre, it’s Temple Run that is considered the title that brought immense popularity upon in it the same way that Super Mario Bros. established platform staples and DOOM the first-person shooter (FPS). It was perhaps inevitable that a version of the series would appear in virtual reality (VR) at some point, but it was a surprise that it came so soon.
The demo version of Temple Run VR showcased alongside the original reveal of the Gear VR Innovator Edition at Samsung Unpacked, Berlin, in September 2014, offered an enjoyable insight into the potential workings of the videogame. Sadly, the final release version doesn’t appear to have progressed much – if at all – from that initial outing.
Taking place in a first-person perspective, the player must claim a golden idol before sprinting down a hallway and out into the open across a treacherous path filled with randomly generated challenges. Rocks to jump over, ice piles to avoid, beasts to evade and narrow walkways to traverse are just some of the challenges the player will face as they endeavour to set a high score and reach the furthest distance they possibly can.
Sadly, attempting to set a high score is a near-pointless endeavour, as Temple Run VR doesn’t benefit from any of the window dressing that most Gear VR titles offer as standard. There’s no leaderboard system – either on- or offline – and no progression system whatsoever. The traditional mobile versions of Temple Run typically reward the player for continued play by offering purchasable upgrades in exchange for the tokens collected in-game (or purchased with real money, in some instances). There is no token counter in-game and no upgrade system available at any point, making collecting them a rather pointless endeavour.
Many have reported instances of simulator sickness with Temple Run VR, and while this wasn’t the case in VRFocus‘ experience it would be easy to see how those susceptible to the condition could suffer. Temple Run VR ignores many of the common warnings of VR design, using locomotion and acceleration with seeming intent on creating discomfort for the player. The videogame can be experienced entirely on the Gear VR using the built-in touchpad or with a bluetooth controller, but neither mode grounds the player enough to remove the inherent flaws in its design.
The visual quality of Temple Run VR is undeniably high, but with that comes the expected framerate stutters that kill the enjoyment of the experience. These are not a rare occurrence either; in every single play VRFocus entertained for this review the dreaded slowdown would rear its ugly head at some point.
Temple Run VR was a wonderful early showcase of the Gear VR hardware, but its lack of attention since then is clear. There was a time when many believed it could be a defining title for the format – a system seller if nothing else – but that time has passed, and the resulting product is less than stellar. Temple Run VR‘s one redeeming feature is its visual quality, and given the issues this brings it’s certainly not worth investing in for that reason alone.