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Plugged In

The remarkable rise of tiny iPhone smash ‘Temple Run’

Plugged In

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Temple Run (Imangi)

Temple Run, an App Store release made on a meager budget by a husband-and-wife team, is giving iOS offerings from massive companies like EA and Zynga a serious run for their money.

In total, it's racked up over 40 million downloads since releasing last August, according to New York Times tech blog Bits, and is now played by nearly as many people as all Zynga mobile games combined.

The game sees players sprinting through an Aztec maze while being chased by hordes of evil monkeys. It's a sort of mashup of Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, and Run, Lola, Run -- miss a jump, hit an obstacle, or plummet off the side, and you're done. Simple, adrenaline-pounding, and over in just a few minutes, it's the perfect recipe for a portable game.

Unsurprisingly, App Store shoppers are wild about it.  The game's  currently in seventh place in the App Store "Top Free" rankings, just behind EA's newly released The Simpsons: Tapped Out, though it held the top spot as recently as January.

"The game hits lots of good points," Imangi co-founder Natalia Luckyanova told the Times.  "People play it and right away they play it again. They want to beat their high score so it kind of sucks you in."

Just ask presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, who recently confessed to having a crushing Temple Run addiction.

Although Temple Run is a free download, players can opt to spend real money to boost their supply of in-game gold, which can then be used to upgrade their character's abilities, resurrect after dying, or unlock new skins.  Imangi won't say how much money the game has made, but puts its userbase at around 13 million players per day.

Sounds like a lot — and it is. All the mobile games created by behemoth Zynga , a company which is thought to have around three thousand employees in total, get about 15 million daily players.

And Temple Run shows no signs of running out of steam. A version of the game for the competing Android mobile phone platform is in the final stages of testing, and should be let loose on eager gamers any day now.

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