Occasionally we let a gem-of-a-game slip through the cracks. And once we realize our oversight, we'll make it a point to feature the game even if it's not brand-new, and particularly during times like this when new releases are slow. One such title is On The Run, an absurdly fun little game hosted and contracted by Miniclip Games, developed by Officine Pixel. This Shockwave game is a third-person car racer, or rather chaser, as you spend the entire game being pursued by a mysterious, clandestine group of baddies called the "Corporation" that's trying to hunt you down and run you off the road.
You sport a little yellow coupe, while the bad guys have a fleet of cars, SUV's and vans, all of which stop at nothing to wreck your car and stop you from escaping. What are you escaping from? Why are you "on the run" in the first place? It's never really explained, and it doesn't need to be. The fun of this game isn't the story, it isn't the characters...it's the gameplay, plain and simple. You'll be surprised that despite all the flashy racing games available today, you can have such a blast trying to outrun and outwit your pursuers in a little Web game made a couple years ago.
You control the car using the [arrow] keys and [space] to hit the e-brake. Once the starting light turns green, you're let loose in a Euro-style city with no map, no Crazy Taxi-style arrow pointing you in the right direction. The city is unfamiliar and yours to explore, although you won't have much time to enjoy the scenery as you push the pedal to the metal, gunning it through intersections, tunnels, ramps and even down narrow alleys. You have only two things to worry about: your car's health and gas, both of which are measurable by meters at the top of the screen. Run out of gas and it's game over. Wreck your car and obviously it's game over.
You can replenish these meters with gas and repair power-up orbs, both which seem plentiful at first, but get tougher to find as you zoom farther along. Besides trying to find your way out of the city to the goal, you'll constantly have Corporation bad guys chasing you from behind, trying to ram you from the side, and even coming at you head-on as you turn corners. The intuitive strategy is to dodge them, although if you take advantage of the game's decent AI, you can trick enemy cars into crashing by hitting the brake at just the right moments, or pulling a 90-degree-turn out of the blue.
Analysis: On The Run is one of those diamonds-in-the-rough; a simple, small game that doesn't feature mind-blowing graphics or cutting-edge physics, it's just ridiculously fun to play. Your initial run may take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes to beat the game, depending on how many times you fail. Once you've memorized the route, the game can be beat in under 10 minutes, but even that doesn't water-down the replay value. There are always alternate routes you can take and new ways to lose the bad guys. The driving mechanic is quite gratifying, featuring simple-yet-responsive steering and accurate inertia physics. (Just the traction component alone is awesome.) Collision physics can sometimes get iffy; especially when you get boxed in (your health will often drain super-quickly without an ability to escape). But if you've ever wanted to take a few minutes out of your day and pretend you're the star of an action movie during the famous car-chase scene, you'll love what this game has to offer.