Don’t Run With a Plasma Sword: A Great Sci-Fi Sidescroller
In a lot of ways, Don’t Run With a Plasma Sword feels extremely familiar. An auto-running action-platformer with lots of upgrades, power-ups, and unlockables is in a sense one of the most typical kinds of mobile games you can think of. But when the game first hit, having all of these elements brought together in such a well-polished package was a rarer sight. It’s also important to remember that Don’t Run With a Plasma Sword predates a number of trends in mobile gaming, and as a result it was designed around the idea that the player would pay once and get the entire game.
The story is the wonderful kind of cheese that you can only get away with in a game. Aliens invade Earth, and a slacker named Cornelius abandons his post at the comic stand to take them on. He grabs an experimental weapon, paying no heed to the instructions telling him that under no circumstances should he run with a plasma sword. It’s a lucky thing he didn’t see that notice, as he needs to hoof it across five different areas, jumping, sliding, and slashing his way around obstacles and extra-terrestrials. Reaching the end of an area results in a battle against a massive boss of some kind, and you have to study their patterns to find the right moment to attack.
Each area is made up of a number of smaller stages, and if the player is able to successfully clear a stage, they can always start from that checkpoint should they fail. The game is actually beatable, in other words. On top of that, the stages are hand-designed, which means the layouts don’t change when the player makes another attempt. Thus, you can learn where the obstacles and secrets are over the course of many tries, giving yourself a better chance of making it to the next checkpoint. Defeating aliens or collecting stars earns you experience points, and those points can be exchanged for a number of different upgrades that will also help push you forward.
These upgrades include quite an interesting selection. There are the usual power-ups that can have their temporary effects boosted, but there are also new moves to unlock like a double-jump or a downward stab. You can also improve your basic parameters, allowing you to run faster, jump higher, and so on. Thanks to this system, you have quite a bit of control over how your character progresses. Sure, you’ll want to unlock and max out everything eventually, but the order you choose to do that will make for a very different experience from person to person. This expanded moveset also increases the gameplay depth by giving you more options at any given moment.
Expanding your abilities isn’t the only way experience points can be spent, however. You can also use them to unlock levels early, open up higher difficulty settings for the game’s endless mode, or to buy an assortment of cosmetics to customize your character with. By default, you can play the endless mode on the easy setting, but there are four increasingly tough versions available if you have the experience to unlock them. This is where you’ll be spending the bulk of your time after clearing the story, so it’s nice that there are some options available.
For their part, the story areas are quite fun. It’s interesting to have a game like this with hand-built levels, and each one offers multiple routes that you’ll want to check out in order to maximize your score and experience gains. That said, there are some elements that change from game to game, such as which power-ups appear and where they’ll pop up. Enemies are also in slightly different places. But the structure remains the same, and so do the bosses that wait at the end of each area. None of those bosses are terribly complicated, but they make for a fun break from the usual run-and-slash action.
Don’t Run With a Plasma Sword is a bit deeper than the average runner, but it’s still quite simple at its core. Still, it’s a carefully designed sort of simplicity, and the core appeal of running, jumping, sliding, and swinging around a plasma sword at weird creatures is strong. It’s the kind of game you can really sink your teeth into if you want to learn how to play it well, or just brute force your way through if you want some quick fun. You don’t have to look far to find a decent auto-runner on mobile, but not many are as outrageously fun as this one.