Welcome to a futuristic virtual reality world where you play as a soulless automaton. Let’s call him Tom for short, Tom is designed to move forward without stopping. T.E.C. 3001 is a runner in third or first person where you need to make it from the start to the finish of each course. It sounds simple and it might even sound mundane, but T.E.C. manages to mix things up with a lot of abilities and types of tracks that keep every moment engaging.
The game has a beautiful color scheme and its humble in terms of graphics, but it gets the job done admirably. For the most part, each area consists of a single color’s hue. You’ll see tones of red and when you pass through a gate, then the tone will meld into blue, then yellow and so on. Even a simple color change makes the game look fresh. There are still environments for all of these courses that make them look different even if its just the same objects. You’ll see mountains in the distance, a futuristic grid from the 1980s, and walls. So many walls.
Like most runners, T.E.C. is a one more try sort of game. Slamming into a wall will send you back to the last checkpoint, but there’s so little downtime that it keeps you in the action for just one more time again and again. In this case, Tom is running for batteries in a race against time. You only have X number of seconds to make it to the goal and you need to collect Y number of batteries along the way.
As you speed along, the game will pinpoint and highlight the batteries for a brief moment before you’re near them. That way you can prepare for them. Depending on how many you get, there are three ranks for each course and all courses can be replayed to your heart’s content for better times.
Truth be told, the runner genre is one of my least favorite that I can still tolerate to play. I see the genre as a one trick pony while T.E.C. 3001 is a mustang that turns every course into a magic show. There is a lot of diversity here. For starters, because the camera chases after the metal man so you have control to turn him left and right. Its the full motion that makes this game more engaging and challenging than a typical runner.
With Tom’s speed he turns slow, which is okay given the genre. Almost every course opens up into branches that allow for some nonlinear play. Take one path on this run, take another on that run. The game shines when there are multiple paths for you to jump between both up and down below.
Tom has several standard abilities, such as a sliding kick that will get you under limbo walls. There is a standard jump, but also a double jump. You can even dash to break through glass and dash in mid air to make it across extra long gaps. The course has a variety of arrows, green arrows make you move faster, red arrows slow you down. Some levels have timing arrows that consist of red, yellow and red. Hit a speed boost on a specific arrow to determine if you’ll go faster or slower. Think of it as Guitar Hero with one button and one chord.
Hitting the red arrows lets you move slow enough where you can jump off a course’s path and then double jump back onto the same path. There are high jump pads that send you into the air and even sky diving rings that you dash through to leap off and then dash through the landing rings or slam into the ground. In flight you can move around to dodge things. Its all an impressive array of tricks. Just when you think the game is out of tricks, another one is conjured up for you, such as what I can only describe as a freeway on ramp. Tom turns slow, so these are generous wide turns on narrow platforms.
There is some thought, logic and strategy to these tricks, such as falling down a far distance and still landing on the course will tumble Tom into a vulnerable state where for a brief moment, Tom cannot jump, dive or anything like that. Dashing leaves you with the same vulnerability. If you dash and fail to achieve what you meant to, its another split second before you can use it again. Its all timing and its easy enough, but the game begins to wildly throw obstacles at you after you’re in the tenth course.
To mix up the gameplay, there are some courses where the full ability to run where you please is taken away and it turns into running on three rails to which you just left and right between them. These tend to be faster paced levels. You’ll find an endless mode that makes use of this three lane mechanic as the game throws walls, vaults and limbos at you.
My only real problem with the game is that it takes away the instructions. In an age where people complain about hand holding, I felt like there were times when I needed it. Such as the double jump into a dash mid air. After one failure, the instruction never appeared again without restarting the entire level. That instruction might also throw people off, but when you see it once, that’s it.
For anyone with friends, there is two player split screen where you compete against one another on the same track. I had to compete against a controller on a pillow and after one slip up, it managed to take the lead. A failure on your part sends you back a bit.
At $4, that’s the right price for the game, its enough to be a diversion and one of the best in its shallow genre. Its worth taking a risk if you’re even remotely interested in it.