By Ryan Scott | 11-5-2012 | 3:00AM

For whatever reason, auto-run games are a thing on mobile platforms. This owes partially to fantastic synergy with the average mobile device's control options (i.e. touchscreens), but it's also due to the genre's easy, pick-up-and-play nature. Games like Canabalt HD, Rayman Jungle Run, and Robot Unicorn Attack are fast, enjoyable, in-and-out games to play when you have a few spare moments.

I featured Hope This Works Games' Polara in a recent installment of my weekly Play By Play mobile game round-up, but it deserves some additional praise. This little $1 auto-runner just might be my favorite mobile game of 2012, and it's easily the best game of its type ever made (so far, anyway).

Chalk that up to the depth of play; Polara is surprisingly complex for a game with only two buttons. As fleetfooted protagonist Lara races across the streets and rooftops of a Gibson-esque dystopia, myriad security systems threaten her every move with color-coded bullets, bombs, lasers, rotating death-chakrams, and what have you. Her stolen super-suit enables her to change her polarity -- red to blue, and vice versa -- and absorb otherwise-fatal attacks that correspond to her current color. It goes beyond that, though: Plenty of platforms, walls, gravity wells, and acceleration strips also correspond to Lara's armor, providing an array of increasingly tricky mechanics for you to manage.

Negotiating the story mode's 50 levels is an exercise in memorization, pattern recognition, quick reflexes, and thinking far enough ahead to keep from crashing into the proverbial (and sometimes literal) wall at breakneck speed. Polara differs from most other auto-run games in that each level has a definitive beginning and end -- and it's even got a light narrative to go along with the cyberpunk universe, complete with cinematic cut-scenes that have some rather impressive production values.

The replay value is relatively high, too: Finishing a level unlocks a pair of collectible goals, and those, in turn, unlock additional, endless game modes to keep you chasing high scores well past your time with the story. And if you're anything like me, you'll chase those flawless, single-life records well into the night (good luck with some of the later levels, though).

Polara is a cut above other auto-run games, thanks to what's really just a simple mechanic that opens up a very large array of possibilities. I've always been keen on polarity-shifting mechanics -- Ikaruga and Outland both rate high on my list of games in their respective release years -- and Polara is a shining example of how to do it right. If you love this genre, or if you just want a fantastic game that'll last you through a great many instances of got-a-few-minutes-to-kill, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up.

 


Score: 9 out of 10

Price: $0.99

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