Here’s a quandary for you to consider: how important is presentation in a video game? We regularly go back to revisit old NES classics like Super Mario Bros, Mega Man and Castlevania, even though we know their graphics aren’t up to snuff by modern standards. Similarly, many people still enjoy old-school arcade classics like Pac-Man and Space Invaders despite them consisting of nothing but lines, dots and basic geometric shapes. With that in mind, how important can nice visuals really be?
The natural answer to this question seems to be “somewhat important”. We can’t very well keep making games that look like Pac-Man forever more, can we? On the other hand, we need to maintain a certain semblance of aesthetic sensibility. We can’t just keep jacking up graphics quality and hoping that’ll do; in this way, we will arrive at the point where graphics cannot be improved upon, and we won’t know what to do with ourselves.
Thankfully, this is a question that Subway Surfers, now exclusively available to play on Poki, iOS, and Android, cunningly sidesteps. This game features some of the nicest and most well-presented visuals we’ve ever seen, and it achieves this by balancing its graphical quality with its art style in a way that makes each complement the other. Subway Surfers is colorful, vibrant and eye-catching, with a bright and vivid palette that makes its high-quality 3D presentation even more jaw-dropping. We haven’t seen presentation like this since the glory days of the PlayStation 2.
Enough about visuals, though. You want to know what Subway Surfers plays like, right? Subway Surfers comes to us thanks to a collaboration between Danish developers SYBO Games and fellow travellers Kiloo. Other games from these studios include various ports of beloved franchises like Worms and LEGO, as well as fantasy-themed endless runner Blades of Brim. We’re more in the territory of the latter here, though, so if you’ve played BoB (as we’re calling it) then you know what to expect from Subway Surfers.
Like BoB, Subway Surfers is an endless runner. Unlike the former, Subway Surfers is set in the modern day, and sees a graffiti artist running for his life from a policeman who presumably doesn’t have anything better to do (although the policeman’s dog is also involved, which leads us to believe that maybe it’s just a bit of fun for the little canine). The chase leads our hapless protagonist through railway tunnels, past dangerous barriers and right into the path of oncoming trains, all of which must be avoided if they hope to draw graffiti another day.
Obviously, the narrative here is simply a framework to enable the gameplay. Subway Surfers is a pretty classic endless runner, so if you know the trappings of the genre, you’ll be in fairly familiar territory. If you don’t, here’s a quick primer: endless runners play like they sound. You run, endlessly, and dodge obstacles that are thrown into your path. If you hit one, you’ll be slowed down, and if you hit another before you manage to build your speed back up then it’s game over for you. The game will automatically run for you, so you won’t need to worry about pressing anything to move, but you’ll need to handle the dodging yourself.
In Subway Surfers, this translates to the ability to move left and right to dodge incoming trains and malevolent inanimate objects, as well as using the up and down arrow keys to jump and duck respectively. Hitting obstacles will end your run, like in other endless runners, but you can resume from where you left off with the use of an in-game item (or simply restart the level if you don’t care about losing progress). Along the way, you’ll collect coins, which can be used to unlock in-game characters if you collect enough of them.
What this means in practice is a solid, consistently compelling gameplay loop that encourages skilful play and doesn’t punish failure too harshly. Subway Surfers doesn’t really strongly reinforce the need to continue from where you left off, either; it’s presented as a choice that’s there for you if you need it, but you don’t need to take that choice if you simply want more unadulterated gameplay, as you won’t be missing out on too much by going back to the beginning. You won’t be able to collect as many coins, though, so if you’re in the middle of an impressive unbroken coin run, it might behoove you to simply restart from your death position.
Said coins unlock a whole host of fun extra characters, so if you’re getting a little tired of the kid with the cap then you can change him for a ninja, a robot and other suitably wacky alternatives. Doing so won’t change the fundamental gameplay experience, so don’t worry if you’ve already started learning the mechanics; all of Subway Surfers’ protagonists are equal opportunity offenders in the literal sense. Some characters can’t be unlocked simply through the use of in-game currency and will require special items, so make sure you know the criteria before you go to unlock a new avatar for yourself.
It’s not difficult for us to recommend Subway Surfers. This is a game that respects its players enough to leave well alone while they learn the core mechanics, but ramps up its difficulty quickly enough to warrant an enjoyable challenging gameplay experience with each run. Of all the endless runners out there, Subway Surfers is one of the most vibrant, one of the most rewarding and one of the most consistently fun you can play.