For those of you who were following the development of Virgin's Eurit, it's finally been released, with a shiny new title: Grid Runner. You play the role of Axel, a space fighter (?) who is captured by the evil witch Vorga (immediately recognizable by her ultra-annoying cackle). A vindictive woman, Vorga forces Axel to play her game Grid Runner in order to survive. Okay, it's not much of a premise, but when was the last time you bought an action game for its storyline?
Grid Runner's concept is very simple, but kind of hard to explain. For the most part, the game is a strange blend of Capture the Flag and Tag. At the beginning of each round, the first player to reach a flag gains control, and the other player becomes "it." The unlucky "it" cannot capture any flags until he has tagged the other player. The object of the game is to capture a certain number of flags, determined at the beginning of the level. Simple, right? Now here's the tricky part. In addition to running around like a banshee, each player also has the ability to cast spells that affect the conditions of the game, from the slow spell, which slows your opponent (making him much easier to catch or avoid), to the teleport spell, which randomly warps you to another point on the game field. Furthermore, each player also carries a gun that can be used to stun his opponent.
The game starts out pretty easy, and most players will zoom through the first few levels with no problem. Later levels are more challenging, and feature tougher and tougher opponents with loads of special powers to trip players up. But the real strength of Grid Runner is in its two-player mode. Featuring an easy-to-follow split screen head-to-head mode, the game instantly creates an atmosphere of back-stabbing competition, without requiring a network or modem hookup (although those options should have been added).
In the end, Grid Runner's solid and creative gameplay, excellent techno soundtrack, and brilliant multiplayer feel outweigh the negative effects of its hokey plot and repetitiveness. If you're looking for a solid title that's a bit different from anything you've seen before, Grid Runner is definitely worth a second look.