Temple Run is a 3D endless running game made by Imangi Studios for iOS and Android Devices. The game involves the player stealing an ancient idol from some ruins and then running away as they get chased by demonic monkey-like creatures who seem to conceivably be the protectors of the idol artifact. In a similar vein, Cluster Truck is a level platform game developed by Landfall Games that involves the player running and jumping over a sequence of moving trucks to get to the end of the level. Cluster Truck is available on Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Even though Temple Run has an endless running design where the objective is to attain the highest score and Cluster Truck has levels so the objective is to reach the end of a particular level, both Temple Run and Cluster Truck have similar overall goals: keep running and use the game’s mechanics (move left, right, jump or slide) to stay alive. However, arguably one of the main differences between the two games is the different themes they have and how they evoke different motivations and reactions from the player.
SAME GOALS, DIFFERENT MOTIVATIONS = DIFFERENT PLAYING APPROACHES
In Temple Run, the player immediately gets thrown into a morally dubious area: they’ve stolen an artifact that clearly doesn’t belong to them and have to run for their life to escape the monkey-like protectors. In contrast, Cluster Truck’s theme is far more casual and open-ended. Players exist in a dream-like realm with lots of empty bare space. The environment only consists of moving trucks and sometimes obstacles like icicles or rotating wheels. The large amounts of white space around the player almost makes the game look like a utopian dream, where each level represents a challenge and the trucks present an opportunity for the player to overcome that challenge. Therefore, while both games’ end goal is to stay alive and continue advancing, Temple Run encourages this through the motivation of fear and survival for our questionable treasure hunter while Cluster Truck promotes a sense of excitement and experimentation in the game’s crazy dream-like theme.
…I found myself much more on edge in Temple Run and trying to maintain complete concentration of just surviving from moment to moment…On the other hand, Cluster Truck’s more lighthearted and celestial theme encouraged me to try new things every time.
These varying motivations inevitably seep into how players approach the game. For me, I found myself much more on edge in Temple Run and trying to maintain complete concentration of just surviving from moment to moment. There was no “I wonder if jumping here will allow me to skip the next platform” type of thinking. All I could focus on was staying alive and outrunning the demonic monkeys who were after me. On the other hand, Cluster Truck’s more lighthearted and celestial theme encouraged me to try new things every time. What if I jump right at the edge of a truck’s roof? What if I hold jump for longer and move in midair? Admittedly, this air of experimentation was helped by the game’s level design, since the trucks’ positions change every time and force you to devise new strategies. But my comfortableness with trying new things was certainly aided by the game’s easygoing context. There were no scary hunters after me, and I didn’t have to be wary of anything bad catching up to me. I wasn’t running from anything but rather had the opportunity to get to something as long as I navigated the maze of trucks properly. In this way, Cluster Truck’s more optimistic fun theme created an experimental atmosphere that was borne out of the hope of getting across the level, rather than being guided by the laser-focused adrenaline of our crooked treasure hunter’s survival.