CodeRunner is a new game for GPS-enabled iOS devices from Rocketchicken Interactive. Available now, the game offers a story-driven, location-based, espionage-themed adventure experience for anyone who has ever harbored James Bond fantasies.
CodeRunner isn’t the first location-based game for iOS — gamified social apps such as Foursquare popularized the idea of “checking in” to locations along with collecting points and awards for visiting real world locations. Quite a few attempts have been made to create full games based on players’ GPS locations, with notable examples including Parallel Kingdom and GPS Mission. But to date, none have taken the same pains that CodeRunner has to create a realistic augmented reality game experience.
CodeRunner begins with the player being contacted by a mysterious operative who informs them that they are under surveillance, and must get away from their current location. Once the player has physically moved about 40 meters away from their starting point, the operative explains that the player is being recruited by the governmental Department of Privacy, and that they have a case for them to work on.
Thus begins an intrigue-filled plot that requires players to physically travel to real-world locations to complete objectives. These might include hacking in to a secure network to look at a hotel’s security camera footage, listening in on a private telephone call or uploading evidence to a waiting reporter hiding in a nearby restaurant. It should probably be pointed out that all of the player’s activities are actually simulated — there is no real breaking into networks or hacking of phones, though the game’s slick, polished presentation and heavy use of audio provides an unnervingly realistic experience at times.
A key part of gameplay revolves around the use of “dead drops,” which are real-world locations tagged by players of the game. These locations allow players to download new missions and upload evidence, and may be created by anyone, meaning that even if an area doesn’t hold any other players, the game can still be enjoyed.
Creating a dead drop involves moving to a location, tagging it with a category, snapping a photo, choosing a password and leaving a note with a clue to said password. Players are encouraged to be creative with passwords and clues, though are frequently reminded that they should not deface public property or trespass on private property without permission if hiding physical objects. Tagged locations are later used to make the story missions more “authentic” — for example, if other players in the area have previously tagged local security cameras, antennae, hotels and the like, then when the story requires the player to visit such a location, it will be physically present in front of them rather than requiring the use of imagination.
The game is primarily a solitary experience but the game world is given added richness and depth from greater numbers of nearby players creating and rating each other’s dead drops. The game also includes Game Center support for achievements, many of which are tied to other players visiting created locations. While the game doesn’t feature inbuilt support for posting to social networks for promotional purposes, its very nature means that it will enjoy plenty of word-of-mouth virality among friends in close physical proximity, particularly as the execution is so good.