Chameleon Run is an easy game to dismiss.

Fire it up and it resembles a 3D Canabalt, shifted into sort-of 3D, but there’s a lot more going on here. In fact, Chameleon Run’s smarts are such that while it masquerades as something very familiar, it keeps lobbing new ideas into the mix, bringing new life to auto-runners on mobile.

Switch it up

First, there’s the colour-switching. Platforms are either yellow, pink or black. Land on one while the wrong colour and you’re dead. Land on a black one while any colour and you’re dead. But time it right, switching colour just before you land, and you get a little speed boost, the importance of which only later becomes apparent.

Secondly, Chameleon Run isn’t so much about survival as choreography. Instead of presenting yet another algorithmically generated auto-runner, the developer has painstakingly designed and refined every step of this game, and you must commit them to memory to have any chance of success.

Fortunately, you’re regularly taught new abilities to help you survive, such as double jumps and head jumps (essentially, headbutt the platform above, giving you another chance to avoid tumbling into the abyss). New obstacles also occasionally appear, although they’re not always advantageous — fans will usefully fling you into the air, but land on the wrong bit of a see-saw and your momentum will be abruptly obliterated, and you’ll battle to avoid falling to your doom.

The need for speed

Smartly, each of Chameleon Run’s dozen or so levels revels in having you tackle them in different ways. The game has you collect marbles scattered throughout, find smoking gems, and get to the goal without changing colour — a huge challenge late on in the game. Even then, these feats only award you with chameleons to unlock later levels — you only win stars for all-important bragging rights by getting to the goal as fast as possible, hence the aforementioned speed boosts.

Very competent players might nonetheless breeze through and grumble at the game’s lack of levels — around a dozen in all. But much like Power Hover, moaning about the brevity of Chameleon Run misses the point.

This game isn’t meant to last forever, nor offer endless challenges — instead, it’s a tightly designed distillation of platform games and pathfinding with a colourful twist. And given its low price and lack of IAP, it’s perfect weekend fodder for anyone raging about the creeping prevalence of free-to-play and IAP in modern mobile gaming.

Chameleon Run is available for Android and iOS.

Stuff says... 

App of the Week: Chameleon Run review

A great-looking auto-runner that will give you several happy hours.
Good Stuff 
Keeps lobbing new ideas into the mix
Intuitive but tough to master
Great level design
Bad Stuff 
No cross-device progress sync
Toughened gamers might breeze through