The ‘endless runner’ type of game has been around for quite some time. For some, they are incredibly addicting, while others find them not really that appealing. Sure, they can be interesting to play at first and I understand how they are useful to pass the time. But most of the titles masquerading as a runner game are so bland, I can’t think of anything else aside from Subway Surfer and Temple Run.

Well, Radian Games’ new title Scorcher is out to change my opinion on this genre.

Though the mechanic remains the same, the studio offers some unique twists into the design formula. From the minimalistic visuals, the upbeat soundtrack, and an interesting control scheme, they’re all new additions to a genre for a long time hadn’t seen any true creativity.

And also there’s a giant sandworm.


Desert's Sound

I have to give it to Radian Games for bringing the game’s soundtrack nearly to perfection. The upbeat music changes the further you travel down the sandy canyon. Though I’m proud to say that I’ve been down the line some twenty five thousands meters, the music has yet to be exhausted. I suspect that the only way you can hear the entirety of the soundtrack is to find it online. There’s no freaking way anyone’s going to last long enough in the game to hear the last note of the music.

There are no sound effects, however. Despite the fact that the sandy background and the massive sandworms offer nearly limitless potentials for great sound effects, none of them were used. When you bumped into the side of the canyon, for example, there is no sound when you’re supposed to hear a dry ‘thud’ or the likes. There wasn’t even sound when you crash your sand-rider. The only sound effects exist in the game is in the menu and the UI. It’s a bit disappointing design-wise.

Sand: Visualised

In term of visual, even when the developers specifically aimed for a minimalistic approach, the game’s seriously impressive. Especially when you take into account the particle effects like the trail of sand your vehicle left behind, or the way the sandworm kicks up a cloud of dust as it threads through the sand to get to you. Everything brings interesting visual details to the game and prevents it from becoming too repetitive. The effects also serve as a visual cue to tell you how fast you are gliding through the narrow pass without distracting you too much with something like a speedometer. That is a very wise design choice.

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There’s a little downside to the beautiful particle effects, though. For those with phones that aren’t blessed with a powerful processor, your phone might struggle with rendering the game. But even then, according to comments, it’d feel like an annoyance more than a hindrance. You can still play the game despite the slight frame drop.

Complicated Settings

The viewing angle can be adjusted. At the default camera setting, you’re entreated to a slightly angled view of the canyon and can feel the height of the passage’s walls. If that’s not your style, you can change to a top-down view that will reveal to you the canyon’s edges in more definition. You will have to sacrifice your visibility, however, since the visible portion of the canyon is reduced. No matter what you choose, though, it wouldn’t affect the playability of the game too much. It all boils down to personal preference and what works for you.

The controls are tactile and responsive, but takes a little bit to get used to. A beginner’s mistake when it comes to the game is that most people thought that the best way to control the ship is with their thumb at the bottom of the screen. That works, yes, but that’s not how you’re supposed to be doing it. The game’s default control scheme is set to absolute finger position, which means the best place to put your finger at on a vanilla game is directly on top of the ship.

It can feel a little bit weird because when you do it that way, it almost felt like you’re dodging the canyon’s walls with your finger instead of with the ship. If you want to change it up, just go to the settings and switch up the control scheme from absolute to a relative scheme. In the settings, you can also find control options for jumping. The default is jumping when you lift your finger off of the screen. You can switch the gesture to either swiping toward the bottom of the screen, or double tapping to jump. Alternate jumping can be assigned to the remaining options that weren’t used, or can be completely unassigned if you don’t want to bother.

It's a bit complex, I have to admit.

Naturally Difficult

The game is indisputably hard no matter which way you look at it. You can cheat a little bit by changing the camera’s view depending on the level: When you need to see further to avoid mines or plot your way around sandworms. But in the end, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference. Changing the control scheme won’t help, either. It’ll make you feel more comfortable with playing the game, what it doesn’t do is making it any easier. The canyon’s tight walls, turns, the high speed, or the innumerable obstacles and dangers along the way will eventually get to you. Heed my warning: It will take more than one try for you to finish a single canyon.

There are two conditions you can meet before the next level is unlocked for you. The first is achieving a predetermined total number of meters traveled, or achieving the total number of meters traveled in a single run. For the first case, the requirement is usually one hundred thousands meters. If you’ve played the game before, you’d know that that is a tough milestone to crack in a single run. The second case is a little bit easier and usually range in the ten thousands, so most people just try to push their way through this number and be done with it.

The Sandworm

There’s more to the game than just unlocking levels and progressing. For those who are up to a new challenge and managed to break twenty thousand meters in a single run, or reach ten thousand meters in the final canyon … then you can elect to use the Sandworm. I personally think that the best thing about this game is this mode. You don’t take your ship and try to avoid being eaten alive by it, no. Things are far more interesting. Instead, you are at the control of the worm. As you tunnel furiously through the sand and in-between the deep faces of the canyon, your job is to chase and eat as many sandsharks as you possibly can. The number of sharks required for you to maintain the worm’s appetite is a short forty in the first canyon. But as you reach the ending, the number hits sixty. That’s not easy to achieve, but it’s not impossible, either.


While controlling the worm, you don’t have to bother with the failing conditions as you would controlling the ship. There aren’t any other sandworms to compete with you, nor canyon’s walls destroy you on the spot. They’re just inconvenient speed bumps. The only failing condition is not eating enough sandsharks before the timer runs out.

At the End ... Still Repetitive

Even though the studio had attempted to introduce as many innovative details and interesting features into the game’s design to distract us from the repetition. In the end, the game’s content is narrow just like any other titles in the ‘endless runner’ genre: Completing levels, unlocking canyons and new ships, as well as the worm. The end.

You can hunt for achievements, sure, but they don’t do that much at the end of the day. And the rate at which you can unlock new canyons and vehicles are fairly speedy, so after some time, there aren’t much else to do aside from pushing the high score and hunt for achievements. The game’s not bad despite this, I thoroughly enjoy the experience. I just wish that there is a system in place that brings more replay value to the game.

Sure, the game’s still flawed. But it’s a perfect starting point for something bigger. With a little bit of re-design and additions, it can be a masterpiece. You can spend a couple of hours in it, but the lack of replayability will drive you elsewhere to more interesting games. A shame, considering all of its potentials.

In general, Radian Games had set Scorcher up to be a success. With a couple of updates maybe, they can truly make it so. For now, it’s not there just yet.

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