Polara review for PS Vita, 3DS

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: 3DS
Publisher: QubicGames
Developer: CIRCLE Inc./FK Digital./Hope This Works Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Polara is not, strictly speaking, an endless runner. Endless runners tend to be…well, pretty much what the title implies: you run and you run and you run, and when you die you start over again at the beginning. In Polara, by contrast, you certainly do a lot of running, but the game is broken up into levels. Even if you wanted to literally run endlessly, you couldn’t, since every tenth level features a boss battle followed by a cutscene. Couple that with a very generous checkpoint system within each level, and you can see why the game’s seemingly obvious genre isn’t quite so cut-and-dried.

At the same time, though, Polara is close enough to being an endless runner that you could be forgiven for classifying it as such. After all, the cutscenes just tell you why it is your character is running — all you really need to know is that your character has a suit that can change from red to blue, and everything else about futuristic dystopias is just window dressing. Moreover, the boss battles don’t require you to do anything new: you’re still running and changing colours, it’s just that you’re also deflecting the red and blue projectiles back at your enemies.

As for the checkpoints? I’m not going to lie: those are what make Polara worth even a cursory look. The game gives you a glimpse at how it would look as an endless runner in its “Other” mode, and the change from being what it is in its story mode to being a twitchy platformer with procedurally-generated levels isn’t for the best. Having the ability to learn from your mistakes is what makes the game interesting, and what allows it to throw together some devilishly difficult levels.

Of course, the checkpoints also provide a good example of turning a negative into a positive. See, Polara’s performance is, at times, a little laggy and prone to skipping. Given that there are points at which you need to be precise in your jumps and your colour changes, you can see how that can be annoying. The lags and skips don’t happen often enough to be called “game-breaking”, but they do happen enough that if the game didn’t liberally use checkpoints, it probably wouldn’t be worth playing.

As it stands, I’m not sure it’s worth playing for most people. Quibbles about terminology notwithstanding, Polara is, at its core, an endless runner; whether you’ll want to play it depends entirely on whether you need another one of those in your life. It’s a pleasant enough diversion to have on your Vita or your 3DS, but it’s certainly not something you absolutely have to play.

Grade: B-