The further I got into its intriguing level design and increasingly difficult twists, turns, and obstacles, ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun felt more and more like its own game rather than a mash-up of other precision platformers and endless runners. Taking the best of cues from titles such as Super Meat Boy and Celeste in its pixel-precise gameplay and ultra-fast respawn feature, and in its fast-paced forward momentum akin to Rayman Legends, ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun amalgamates all these ideas into a simple, easy-to-understand two-button control system that hits all the right notes.
In ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun, you control a nameless protagonist, and your objective is to complete each relatively short level without dying, all while collecting floating orbs called Atomiks. As previously mentioned, there are only two buttons in the game: one to shoot downward, which propels your character in the air, and the other to shoot forward, to blast obstacles out of your way, and you’re constantly propelled forward. For some reason, the default configuration mapped the buttons to L and R, but I immediately remapped them to A and B and was instantly more comfortable. You can only shoot in one of these directions at a time, so managing your height while also clearing obstacles and avoiding hazards quickly devolves into a flurry of back-and-forth button mashing in an attempt to stay alive.
ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun’s greatest strength is its varied and increasingly difficult level design. Your character can only suffer one hit during each level, so while the game is forgiving in that sense, it is, at times, just as brutal as the aforementioned Super Meat Boy or Celeste, with various traps and obstacles carefully placed along each of the game’s 120-odd levels. From fireball-launching turrets to spikes to even spinning sawblades that launch into the air, there is never a shortage of complex variables you’ll have to take into account in order to see each level’s end. The game also utilizes a checkpoint system, but these become left behind early on in favor of mostly shorter but more brutal level design.
In terms of the game’s difficulty, it does, at times, become frustrating, especially when you can see the end of the level but die, only to be sent back to the beginning. Fortunately, the player respawns almost instantly, so you won’t have to worry about long load times between deaths. That said, death occurs frequently in ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun. To the game’s credit, however, I never felt that any of my 1,000+ deaths were unfair; in fact, each death helped me learn what to do differently next time, and in every case, I’d come out triumphant. The Nintendo Switch version includes a new Shield Mode, where your character gains an energy shield while movement speed is decreased. This option offers a solid handicap to precision platformer newcomers, but I never felt it was necessary to complete any level in the game’s three worlds.
Within each level, there are a certain number of Atomiks to collect; amass enough of them, and you’ll be able to unlock the next world. While following the trail of Atomiks in each level seemingly gives away the best route to success, they aren’t always easily attainable. Some lie dangerously close to a set of spikes, while others are between a set of spinning sawblades you either have to blast away or precisely vault through. In most cases, I forwent trying to collect all of a level’s Atomiks just to finish the level, but completionists will find a good challenge in store. There’s no extra reward for collecting all the Atomiks in each level, but the more you collect, the faster you’ll unlock the next world.
That said, there is some light story content here, but gameplay is the main focus in ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun. Though difficult, levels tend to be on the shorter side, so the game is ideal for quick, pick-up-and-play sessions. Visually, the game adopts a pixelated, sci-fi art style and looks great whether docked or in handheld mode. The game’s electronic hip-hop soundtrack fits the game’s theme well, too.
ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun essentially does what the title suggests: you’re running, gunning, jumping, and gunning again. Meticulous level design as well as features inspired by some hallmark platformers and endless runners make ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun one of the best indie titles on Nintendo Switch to date. Though there isn’t much in the way of narrative, the game makes up for it in its simple and addictive gameplay and tough-as-nails level design that tantalizingly lure me back for just one more round.
Disclaimer: A review code for ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun was provided by the game’s publisher.