If you've been paying attention to the internet lately, you may have noticed an increase in 8-bit GIFs sending characters to a variety of bizarre deaths: This is Stagehand, Matt Comi and Neven Mrgan's new endless runner, and it's delightful.
But unlike your garden-variety endless runner, Stagehand doesn't put you in control of the character; instead, you're controlling the very scenery itself as your buddy runs, jumps, and — yes — occasionally falls feet-first into lava.
These mechanics can throw even seasoned gamers for a loop as they get used to the controls, but lucky for you, dear reader, we've got a few tips on how to conquer Stagehand and work your way through its pixelated days, nights, and weeks to beat your friends.
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Before we get into the nitty-gritty of making Stagehand your personal endless runner playground, we've got a few starter tips to keep in mind:
Every game is different
Unlike Mario, Stagehand's terrain is procedurally generated for every new game, which means every run will have its own unique problems and platform shapes. Don't try memorizing the terrain — instead, make like a Jedi and trust your instincts.
You control the terrain, not the character
Frank (and his compatriots) will automatically run forward and jump across short distances, as well as jump up (1-2 levels) or jump down (until reaching a platform, lava lake, or bottomless pit). Don't worry about them; instead, pay attention to the terrain and the platforms to help them get to where they're going.
Keep Frank and co from jumping to avoid getting crushed
Though Frank (and others) can be thrown into bottomless pits and lava lakes or smashed into spike bricks, your primary charge is to keep him centered and running in the middle of the screen — too far to the left, and they risk getting smushed between a stray platform and the left margin of your iOS device. And while they do make various hilarious faces when this happens, it also ends your run.
To keep Frank happy and moving, you'll want to move platforms and banners to keep him running forward. As mentioned above, he can jump over minor obstacles, but every time he jumps up, he'll slow down ever-so-slightly. Keep the platforms level (or better yet, keep him falling downward onto platforms), and you'll keep running at maximum speed.
Know what you can move (and what you can't)
Stagehand may let you take command of its environs, but physics is still (sort of) in play; as such, there are certain objects you can (and cannot) move.
You can move:
- Wavy-pattern platforms, which will slide up and down to an extreme degree
- Dotted platforms, which have limited up and down movement (usually 3-7 levels up or down)
- Banners, which hang down from the sky, can be dragged up or down (though you generally want to throw them skyward)
You can't move:
- Bricks: Like their real-world counterpart, they're stuck in place
- Treadmills: These speed boosts may keep your character from getting smashed against the side of the screen, but they come at an immovable cost — move platforms next to them to get their full effect
- Spikes: These floating torture bricks provide your character with instant death, and as such, should be avoided at all costs — even by you, the stagehand
- Coins: If you want all that glitters, you're going to have to move a platform to get to it
- Gaps, bottomless pits, and lava lakes: They're just there, waiting to greet you.
Platforms move both up and down
This tip may be obvious, but it took me awhile to actually utilize: You don't just have to move platforms up to give your character a place to run; instead, you can move platforms down to their jumping path.
You can move platforms while Frank and co are running on them
Preemptively fixing the terrain for your character is fun and all, but sometimes you just don't have that luxury. (Alternatively, you might want to move a platform to capture some sweet sweet bonus coins.) Whatever the case, you can always move a platform, even if your character happens to be on it at the time. Better still, you can "bounce" platforms up or down to give your character an extra jump boost. (More on that later.)
Be careful of flinging a character too high or toward off-screen elements
Once you get a bit of initial control over Stagehand's platform mania, you can get a little trigger-happy, flinging Frank and co every which way to get them across the map faster. But remember: though your character will automatically jump from platform to platform, when they're falling, they have no control on where they land.
Throw them up too high on a platform or fling them forward towards the edge of the screen, and you may send them straight into a lake of lava or an angry spike brick.
Platform colors shift as the day progresses
Stagehand takes place over the days of the week, and as time is wont to do, it passes as you run from place to place. This is represented in game by the colors of the sky, background, platforms, treadmills, bricks, and spikes.
Keep this in mind when you're moving your character through the world, especially at night — floating spike bricks are identically colored to the night sky, and will punish you if you're not paying attention.
Coins get added to your distance total
Why pick up coins on your runs? Contrary to many iOS games, these shiny trinkets won't unlock special in-app purchase characters or power-ups; instead, they're used purely to bribe the game to add more distance to your score. The more coins you pick up on a run before you die, the higher your final top score.
Advanced tips, tricks, and cheats
Okay, got the basics? Let's move on to the good stuff.
Run on every treadmill you can
Keeping Frank and co from jumping upward will only get you so far in terms of saving your speed; eventually, the ever-encroaching day will sap your running power and bring the left margin of the screen ever-closer. To keep your character away from that dreaded edge, keep an eye out for speed treadmills: The longer the treadmill, the bigger the boost to your running ability.
You'll also want to try and level the platforms before and after the treadmill to get the maximum benefit; landing on a treadmill from a jump or having to jump up after a treadmill will almost negate the benefit.
Use physics to fling Frank off a platform
Remember how I said earlier that you can move a platform while your character is occupying it? It gets better: If you move that platform with any sort of speed, your character will get flung upwards, increasing their jump height and width.
I use this tip all the time to avoid getting trapped behind vertical brick walls, or to skip over scary spike brick-filled sections of the map. Just be wary of flinging your character too high, lest they get dumped in a lava lake.
Falling from a fling? Use the tip above to save Frank
If you've accidentally flung Frank toward a pit or lava lake, you can save him by dropping the following platform as low as possible to try and catch him, then flinging it upward. Doesn't always work, but I've managed to save my character on more than one occasion from certain bottomless death.
Use both hands to control the platforms
Stagehand is a multi-touch iOS game, which means that, yes, you can move multiple platforms (and banners) at once. Not only does this mean you can multitask to level multiple platforms at once, but it's also helpful to remember that your right hand can work just as well as your left in moving obstacles.
Be careful of mini-platforms, especially on the iPhone
If you're playing on the iPhone, be wary of trying to grab and move extra-skinny platforms — unless you have very good mobility control, you may end up grabbing the wrong platform and creating a wall for Frank and co to smash up against.
Pay attention to directional arrows on the platforms
As your character runs through Stagehand's environs, you may notice little directional arrows on some of the movable platforms: While more of a visual distraction than anything else, these can often hint at the build of upcoming platforms, or impending treadmills/coin caches.
Keep an eye out for recurring platform styles
Sure, Stagehand's terrain changes every game — but there are some recognizable elements you can memorize to get a leg up on the game:
- There will almost always be a dotted platform before a vertical brick wall
- A dotted platform with a directional up arrow will often follow a horizontal brick path with coins
- My least favorite pattern in the game is the banner followed by a floating platform and a lower platform — move the floating platform up to keep from being crushed in between
Feeling flushed? Pause the game to get a 3-2-1 count in
If you're starting to get the jitters from endless running, remember that you can always hit the Pause button in the upper right corner to take a second, recenter yourself, and head back into the platform-moving fray.
For fun and whimsy
These aren't necessarily tips to beat your friends, but they're still delightful aspects to the game.
Don't forget to share your gifs in Messages
When you share your death-gifs in iMessage or other text-based services, you'll get a bevy of customized phrases for your death and high score. They're all hilarious, and discovering each one is almost as fun as dying.
Pay attention to your characters
As you unlock Stagehand's various characters (Frank is your default, but you can also play as Spaceman, Brianna, and Doc), you'll find that each have their own animations for jumping, being on the verge of being squashed, being attacked by spikes, and the like.
Other Stagehand tips?
Found any great Stagehand tips you love? Let me know in the comments!
Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.