When you first launch the game, you’ll get a quick tutorial and then you’re off. The Wizard is running on the yellow brick road over in Whimsical Woods, where you’ll stay until the game gives you the option to download the Dark Forest level. Besides looking for transitioning tunnels to change levels, you’ll sometimes also be able to catch the hot air balloon and fly for a bit. The ride and the zone change are both optional, and require you to make a snap decision (turn left or right) to point Oz in the direction you’d need to go.
Whether you’re in the Woods or in the Forest though, there are plenty of obstacles to keep an eye out for. The lush graphics make it a little difficult for me, personally, since I’m looking at the backgrounds and drooling at how pretty they are! But nonetheless, you’ll have to dodge tree roots that grow across your path as you approach, wild flowers that snap at you from the sides, arches you’ll have to slide under, flying baboons that you’ll have to dodge if they come swooping in on you, and traipse crumbling roads. The difficulty level isn’t high, but it’s a huge leap from previous titles and makes this new game feel fresh and exciting.
The music is epic, and once you start moving through different levels, it changes up a little to create more tension or ease up the mood depending on what you’re doing. For example, when you catch the hot air balloon, there’s some nice, breezy music to go with it to make you feel like you’re flying an airship. There are also neato lightning effects and timed flashes of white on the screen when you’re moving through the transition tunnel.
As I mentioned earlier, the graphics left me in awe. Everything looks so perfect, from the path, to the trees and to the beautiful background off in the distance. Whenever you’re running over a bridge or otherwise suspended ledge, you could see your shadow on the ground, running for its life, far below. The flowers look vibrant and otherworldly, and the animation for tree roots growing into place across the path ahead of you is smooth.
The rewards system is much the same as the other games, but here you get to level-up your character and gain more loot by beating challenges. Every now and then, you’ll collect some keys and gems while running. The keys open up music boxes which give you even more rewards, and the gems could be used to unlock abilities or save yourself when you take a tumble so you could keep running without starting over. If you want a head start, Finley, a friendly flying monkey, will give you a boost. If you decide to use a gem to save yourself after a fall, Glinda’s protective bubble will float you out of harm’s way.
For free, Temple Run: Oz is definitely worth your attention. I like the freedom of choice with the environments and the sense of other-worldly exploration and adventure I feel when running through the areas. I don’t feel pressured to collect more coins to unlock new characters or get in-game bonuses faster, because it feels like a smooth and steady climb to a better running experience every time. As a movie tie-in, I think Oz succeeds in really capturing the feel of the world, and the feeling of being thrust into this vivid, strange place that is seemingly out to get you.
Available free on 9game, Temple Run Oz is a game you should install today.
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