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At last, a free Tom Cruise running simulator

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An online Jack Reacher promo game lets us all grit our teeth and charge into action

What defines Tom Cruise as an actor? Is it the boyish smile and the hint of sociopathic calculation behind that smile? The ongoing defense of Scientology? The massive wealth and success? Or is it just the running? It's probably just the running. Tom Cruise running is such a perversely common element in his movies that it's spawned a wide series of memes, GIFs, video compilations, video analysis (set to Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train," no less), and even the inevitable weak Family Guy joke. Even Tom Cruise's official Twitter account is in on the gag.

Jack Reacher Never Stop Punching

If you wanted to be awful about it, you could say that at this point, it's reached the level of a running gag. So it's really about time we had an online mini-game that lets us all join Tom Cruise's eternal run.

That game is Jack Reacher: Never Stop Punching, a tiny 8-bit endless-runner built to promote Cruise's latest action movie, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. The new film is the sequel to 2012's Jack Reacher, starring Cruise as an endlessly condescending military vet who's unstoppable in combat and uninterested in basic humanity. The trailer for the new film suggests that he hasn't changed much over the past four years: he still spends all his time hitting people, threatening to hit people harder, or running to the next place where he's going to hit some people. Naturally, that's what the game is about. Like the title of the movie suggests, 8-bit Tom Cruise can never go back: he's on a one-way mission to the right side of the screen, where various inimical-looking people are storming in to punch him before he punches them. But just like in the Jack Reacher movies, Tom Cruise is a much better puncher than anyone else, so if you spam the punch key, you're pretty much invulnerable (unless one of the bad guys accidentally drops on your head).

Jack Reacher: Never Stop Punching

Jack Reacher: Never Stop Punching isn't the most accurate Tom Cruise running simulator imaginable. He's got his hands balled up into fists instead of karate-chopping the air for maximum speed. He doesn't ever run directly toward the camera, either. He has a limited amount of health, and when it runs out, he dies, which is not in Jack Reacher's action portfolio. But the game has its own tongue-in-cheek humor, from the retro graphics to the single '80s-style ported-in sound clip. The description of Jack Reacher as a man who "has nothing to lose and everything… to punch" is cute and self-aware. There's even a period-accurate punctuation-free sign-off at the end: "Congratulations Mr. Reacher thank you for making us safe one punch at a time." The game is free for Android, or you can play it online at the movie's website. (Apparently Apple is holding out for a more sophisticated version where Jack Reacher kicks people, too.)