Created by indie developer Hyperbolic Magnetism, Chameleon Run is an autorunner that was originally released on smartphones back in 2016, going on to win various awards and generating an awful lot of positive reviews. The studio has now released a deluxe edition of the game for Switch, adding a dollop of new content in the process. Is it worth your time and money, though? Let’s have a look.
The game looks incredibly simple on the surface, and in some ways that’s true, but Chameleon Run is a deceptively tricky little blighter. Each level presents you with a multi-coloured obstacle course featuring an array of platforms, gaps, and orbs to collect, and all you have to do is make it to the other side. Of course, being an autorunner, your little blocky character is always moving forward without any input, leaving you to deal with some fast-paced, ninja-style jumping while trying to keep him safely under control.
Despite only being triggered with one button, your jump can actually do an impressive number of things. There’s a standard jump, of course; a long jump, which is performed by holding the button down for longer; and you can even pull off double jumps and smaller jumps in mid-air which can both be used to fall underneath platforms, safely rising up again on the other side. Other more advanced techniques are introduced later on, too, creating a surprisingly complex list of skills to master that should please even the most highly experienced platforming geniuses.
The only other control you’ll ever need is a quick colour swap, achieved by pressing ‘right’ on the D-pad. This will change your character’s colour from yellow to pink, or vice versa, allowing you to survive on that particular colour. You see, you can only touch a platform of the same colour; landing on either the opposite colour or a deadly black section will result in an instant game over, throwing you back to the start of the level. The combination of jumping and colour swapping acts like an intense brain training exercise, with your reflexes, course memory, and hand-eye coordination all being put to the test in one go.
The levels do start to get a little repetitive at times – they are all varying takes on yellow and pink lines, after all – but the different course paths and regularly added jump tricks help to ease this for the most part. Every course has two sets of collectable orbs lying on various platforms, making up two extra challenges to complete per level, and you’ll need to explore different routes through the courses to grab them all. A third challenge also sees you having to complete each stage without ever changing colour, and finding the exact path (and actually being able to pull off the required actions) can be extremely tricky.
The game also encourages you to try your hand at speedrunning, with online leaderboards showing you how well (or not) you stack up against other players. Returning to an already completed level gives you the best chance at grabbing fast times as each course adds lightning bolt collectibles once beaten, allowing your character to speed up through certain portions of the stage. You can also generate more speed by switching colour at the last possible moment, just before you make contact with a platform.
If you’ve played the game before on a mobile device, you’ll be pleased to know that this Switch Deluxe Edition features a handful of new courses, and even a fourth additional challenge to complete for each level. This challenge doesn’t unlock until you’ve beaten every single level of the game, though, which is no mean feat. Originating as a mobile game naturally makes it a perfect fit for Switch, too - especially as a game that you can pick up and play in handheld mode for a few minutes at a time in between other activities.
On the flipside to this, however, being a mobile game first and foremost does mean that its length is relatively short compared to other platformers on the console – with patience and persistence you should be able to clear the main goal of each stage in around three hours or so. There is more content here than in the original release, and we’d argue that the Switch’s screen and real, physical buttons make this the superior way to play, but the upscale in price (£4.99 on Switch compared to £1.99 on mobile in the UK) might be the one sticking point we have in our hopes to fully recommend a purchase.
Chameleon Run Deluxe Edition offers a challenging autorunner experience that will no doubt have you hooked and cursing at the same time. The combination of slick jumping and colour swapping makes whizzing around each level enjoyable, and the new features added to this Switch edition are very welcome, but the main bulk of the game will likely be over relatively quickly for most. It’s definitely an enjoyable ride while it lasts, though, and fans of the genre shouldn’t be disappointed.