It can all seem a bit surreal when you run headfirst into a cow relaxing its legs in the middle of the street and you fall down. Making matters worse is the prospective bride your parents are forcing you to marry, the same woman you’re running the hell away from, who hurriedly marks her territory by putting a garland around your neck to make it official. That, in a nutshell, is the premise of Arranged Marriage, a game that follows the endless running template that Temple Run introduced in mobile gaming. You run for true love, away from a future bride or groom who’s been imposed upon you, trying your damnedest to escape the clutches of an arranged marriage. Like most standard games in this “genre”, you keep running and dodging obstacles — cows, dowry and wedding party paraphernalia in this case — as your sprinting speed progresses gradually and you pick up coins and power-ups along the way to increase your score and vitality. As an aside, for how much longer is it possible to flog the dead horse that is this particular XYZ Run format in mobile gaming? (I suspect we’ll find out.)
As for horses, one of the power-ups you get in Arranged Marriage just so happens to be a mare you climb on top of to make for an easy ride collecting coins, thus inverting the single most important element of the average Indian wedding: the mare that the groom enters on. Instead, here, you escape on that same animal — maybe I’m over-thinking it but it seems like that’s poetic in a way.
Moving on to the gameplay, one problem with Arranged Marriage is the laggy movement of your protagonist. You swerve to the left or the right to avoid running into, well, the auto-rickshaw driving toward you with intent, but every now and then, the runner takes his own sweet time to sidestep the auto (or anything else in his path) well after you’ve swiped/instructed him to, leading to a painful little collision. It’s a similar situation when you’re gliding under some bamboo constructions or jumping over fire; at times, he just doesn’t respond to the command quickly enough, so that anticipation of your runner’s lethargic movement can be tricky and takes some getting used to. Unlike many other similar games, there are no stumbles here; the second you ram into an obstacle, you die. Well, not die — it’s game over and you get married against your wishes; the elaborate back-story that introduces the game — of a young couple in love being forced to marry someone against their wishes — doesn’t quite get its happy ending.
There are two characters you can play with: the man running away from a lady decked head-to-toe in bridal wear, or the woman fleeing the scene of the wedding with the groom chasing her with a garland in his hands (presumably bawling). The depiction of the streets is accurate enough: Indian roads have been known to have weird lion installations spewing fire, cows huddled together discussing the beef ban, or autos driving on the wrong side of the road. And, of course, maniacs running frantically in the middle of the road. The detailing of the city outside of the street leaves a lot to be desired, though, with very little in terms of variety to prevent tedium setting in. The game is a light-hearted (and thinly veiled) criticism of the concept of arranged marriages, which is nice. That said, you will eventually fall (or your phone will explode) so the end result of the game, no matter what, is arranged marriage. And further, why did it take so long to change your mind; what about that poor woman (or guy) who’s running after you?