Mobile Game of the Week: Boson X (iOS)
Endless runners have forged a longstanding hold on the App Store game market over the years. Despite the success of games like Canabalt and Temple Run, they’ve often been known more for their use of rampant in-app purchases and manipulative mechanics. Just when it seemed like endless runners were doomed to endlessly rehash these unsavory gimmicks, out comes a game like Boson X to once again justify the genre’s existence.
On the surface Boson X plays out pretty much like every other endless runner you’ve downloaded from the App Store. You play as a scientist who is determined to discover new boson particles—a theme no doubt inspired by the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. Of course, you accomplish this not by making hypotheses and running experiments, but instead by running and jumping across a series of fast moving platforms.
The entirety of Boson X plays out inside what appears to be a high-energy particle collider (or at least something that looks abstract and science-y). Tapping left or right on the screen makes the scientist jump to the next rail on that side of the screen, while tapping both together makes him jump straight ahead. Tap left or right a bunch of times and you’ll find that you are moving around a cylinder of sorts, endlessly running toward a point of singularity in the distance—think Temple Run meets Super Hexagon.
The developers of Boson X really nailed the physics of the movement, which allows for huge jumps that can be suddenly stopped by lifting up your finger. Like the best runners, Boson X’s ever-increasing sense of speed always keeps things exciting. And while running is on auto-pilot, Boson X has the player constantly jumping back and forth between platforms, unlike many runners that start slow in the Temple Run template.
The game doesn’t bother itself with coins or upgrades or needless in-app purchases to bolster its replayability. Instead, the only task it gives the player is to discover that particular stage’s mysterious boson particle, which can be done only by jumping on the flashing blue platforms. As you land on and run across these blue platforms, a meter fills up—once you’ve filled it, you’ve discovered the particle. High scores are based on how far you fill and overfill this meter, rather than just pure distance.
While that might not sound like a particularly revolutionary game mechanic, it really does set Boson X apart in terms of the overall experience. In some ways, calling this an endless runner is almost misleading in that you really are playing specific stages (all of which just happen to be procedurally generated and endless), each of which have been designed to throw some unholy challenges your way. It’s not about running endlessly. You have a primary directive: Discover the mysterious Boson X.
Boson X isn’t a slacker in terms of presentation either. The cel-shaded art style is simple, clean and fluid. Meanwhile, the thumping electronic soundtrack gets the job done as well. Most importantly, Boson X is a fantastic evolution of the endless runner and a great example of how to iterate on a simple set of mechanics. You’re still just running and jumping, but Boson X makes it feel like you’re actually doing something more significant with your life—and that’s what good games are all about, right?
Boson X was developed by Mu & Heyo. It is available for iOS, Mac, PC and Linux.
Luke Larsen is the tech editor at Paste Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @lalarsen11.