Subway Surfers (iOS) review

Subway Surfers is an iOS game from Kiloo. It’s a free download from the App Store and due to its Facebook connectivity regularly shows up on our weekly Top Gainers lists for Facebook-connected games. At the time of writing it is showing up as the No. 9 top gainer on Facebook with 1,300,000 daily active users — bear in mind this may represent only a fraction of the total number of people who have downloaded it, as some may not have connected to Facebook.

Subway Surfers is a 3D endless running game of the Temple Run ilk. Using simple swipe-based controls, players control one of a selection of different avatars and attempt to flee from their pursuers for as long as possible while collecting coins and powerups along the way. At the time of writing, the game features a Christmas-themed skin, so the pursuer is a man dressed as Santa, while the subway train tracks along which the player flees are all decked out with holiday decorations and fairy lights.

Gameplay is, as ever for the genre, simple to understand but hard to master. The player character can jump by swiping up, slide under low obstacles by swiping down, or change “lanes” by swiping left and right. Unlike some 3D endless runners, it’s possible to change lanes in mid-air, meaning players are able to quickly and easily respond to incoming danger — though as so often occurs with swipe-based controls, it’s quite difficult to actually move your finger quickly enough at times.

Players collect coins with each run, and these may be spent on single-use consumable items such as “head starts” and a hoverboard that protects against damage, or on permanent upgrades to various powerups. These are fairly standard fare for the genre, including items that increase the player’s score multiplier temporarily, a “coin magnet” and items that affect the player’s mobility in various ways. Additional coins may be acquired via in-app purchase, as can a permanent “coin doubler” powerup only available via paying real money.

Players may also acquire additional avatars to play as. Some of these cost coins to acquire — usually in vast quantities — but others may be unlocked by collecting special items from “mystery boxes” that occasionally appear on the course. There is also a “rare collection” mechanic to encourage repeat play, and a mission system to provide a bit of variety and the ability for players to earn permanent upgrades to their score multiplier.

Social play is encouraged through Facebook and Game Center connectivity. If the player has friends who have also played Subway Surfers, the nearest “friend score” to their current progress is displayed at all times on the right side of the screen, giving players an ever-increasing target to aim for if they have not yet topped their friends leaderboard. The game integrates both Facebook and Game Center friends together into a single seamless leaderboard, allowing easy cross-platform, cross-network, personalized competition among friends — likely the biggest contributing factor to this game’s enduring success.

Subway Surfers is, at heart, very similar to the many other 3D endless running games on the App Store, but it successfully distinguishes itself with strong social features, unobtrusive monetization, good production values and an apparent commitment to timely seasonal content — though some App Store reviewers have complained that the Christmas update apparently wiped their progress. It is both a good mobile game and a good social game, to boot, encouraging genuine asynchronous competition between friends as well as taking a variety of different steps to ensure it retains its player base over time. It is, in short, well worth a look.

Play

An excellent “endless runner” mobile game and an excellent social game to boot — well worth your time.

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