If you’re a fan of endless runner games like Temple Run, starting today you’ll get your chance to do more than outrun a pack of demonic monkeys — you can take on your friends, too, with Zynga’s new title Running With Friends.
That’s the basic distinction that Travis Boatman, Zynga’s senior vice president of mobile, offered when describing the game to me. There’s already “a huge group of players that love these games,” he said, but they aren’t able to “play with friends and family the way that I can in Words With Friends.” At the same time, even though the social component is Zynga’s main addition, Boatman said the team was also focused on making sure the core gameplay was fun.
That gameplay involves running through the streets of Pamplona, Spain, during the annual Running of the Bulls. As players try to keep ahead of the bulls, they also smash obstacles like haystacks and barrels to improve their scores. If they’re feeling particularly daring, they can jump on the back of a bull. As they race, they can compete with friends in a turn-based fashion, each player trying to best their friends’ time on the same level, and also trying to move up the game leaderboard.
Although I have had my share of intense Words With Friends gameplay, this seems a little more fast-paced and action-oriented than the other titles in the With Friends franchise, which tend to have their roots in board games. However, Boatman said Running With Friends is linked to the rest of the franchise because of its asynchronous gameplay and its aim of being “very approachable” to casual gamers. (Plus, it uses the same login system as the other With Friends titles.)
The game actually launched in Canada back in March, but today is its global launch on iOS, with an Android release promised shortly. This comes after some disappointing titles led to a relatively slow period for new releases from Zynga — during its most recent earnings call, executives said that the company is planning to accelerate its launch schedule again, and that both Draw Something 2 (which launched in late April) and Running With Friends were showing some of the best internal scores that the company has seen.
Zynga is also announcing Dunkin’ Donuts as a promotional partner, with Dunkin’-sponsored tips appearing in the game, and plans for Dunkin’-branded in-game rewards and boosts.
Running With Friends was designed by team members who had previously worked on Scramble With Friends — they worked with Eat Sleep Play, the developer of Twisted Metal. Zynga said Eat Sleep Play built a custom 3D engine as well as helping out with art, animation, and other aspects of the game.
For today’s launch, Zynga didn’t provide me with an advance copy of the game, just a video illustrating the gameplay. I did, however, get a chance to play once or twice during a company dinner with journalists earlier this year. As with other endless runners, I got caught up in the race pretty quickly — though it was only a few seconds before the bulls caught up and gored me.
You can download Running With Friends here.