Developed by Canadian studio ThirtyThree, ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun quietly debuted on Steam in 2016. Later that year, it garnered a bit more attention when it landed on mobile thanks—in part—to a favorable Engadget write-up. While it was reviewed well by smaller gaming media, it went mostly overlooked. The indie gaming market is a crowded place, particularly on mobile and Steam, so it’s hardly a surprise when a game as good as RunGun flies under the radar. But what is puzzling is that it didn’t get more attention when it landed on Switch in February of 2018.
RunGun’s Switch release was its best chance at making a splash and reaching the audience it had long deserved. Countless indie titles have been deified upon being ported to Nintendo’s beloved hybrid, and RunGun should absolutely be on that list. A predecessor to the twitch-heavy platformer favorite Celeste, RunGun has plenty in common with its beneficiary, but the key difference is that RunGun is of the endless runner genre. (Think Super Mario Run, Alto’s Odyssey.)
On Switch, RunGun is a two-button affair—one button shoots forward to destroy obstacles, and the other shoots downward to propel the player upward. (Pro tip: I found the Switch’s default L/R control configuration obtuse, so I immediately changed the controls to Up and A, which feels a lot more natural to me.) Balancing your shots between clearing a path forward while finessing gravity is a tricky juggling act, and that’s where the fun comes in. Like Celeste, it’s quite tough, and you’ll die frequently, but the difficulty is packaged accessibly in short, manageable sequences. (Infinite lives don’t hurt, either.)
The neon pixel art of RunGun’s visuals resembles those of Celeste, although RunGun is notably flashier and more chaotic in its presentation. Comparisons can also be made between the two soundtracks—both chiptune-inspired—but RunGun’s being the more EDM-rooted of the two. While I’ve only completed about half of RunGun’s 120 levels, so far the post-apocalyptic “story” can’t touch that of Celeste, but the player will be treated to a number of zany characters, often with hilarious, confounding dialogue.
If you enjoyed the gameplay of Celeste, you owe it to yourself to try RunGun, which retails on the Switch eShop for $8 in the US. If you don’t have a Switch, fear not—you have other options: Steam ($8), the Mac App Store ($7) or your phone or iPad ($3).