Do you ever see an indie game that you want to play, but end up passing on it because it’s not on the platform of your preference? It’s rare that games are platform exclusive these days, especially if you’re discussing third party developers. In some cases you may even own the game on an alternate platform, but you just never got around to playing it. That was my experience with Runbow – I own it on my Wii U and probably Steam, but I only played a couple levels until now.
I remember seeing a lot of fuss about Runbow when it was first coming out, and the years following were no different. While the game may not seem spectacular at a glance of the screens, there’s a fair amount happening in the game, but much more so if you invite others to join you. This is a platformer with a competent set of mechanics that are heightened with the addition of multiplayer. The game offers up to 9 people playing together online, 8 players locally on Switch, and 4 players locally on PS4. It may seem like the PS4 version is inferior in that respect, but trust me, 4 is plenty. I probably speak in the minority when I say this, but I prefer limited multiplayer in games. When I played Super Smash Bros on the Wii U with 8 people, I kind of shut down having no idea what was going on. There’s undoubtedly an audience for it, but I was more than content with 4 players, meaning the local multiplayer options on PS4 are ideal for me.
In the event you’re having a party and people enjoy getting in on a game with a group of people, there are a few options that you can jump into with this. There’s the basic adventure mode that includes more than 140 level, but the game also offers the modes Run, Arena, and King of the Hill. You can probably ascertain what each of those modes are based on the names, but in case you can’t, Run is basically a race to the finish against everyone. As you progress through the levels you come across different powers and level modifiers that you’ll use to try and throw everyone else off while getting to the trophy first. Some of these include turning the level upside down, switching places with characters, and looking like another character that someone else is controlling. Arena is basically the last person standing – you attempt to knock everyone off the stage or into spikes while not killing yourself in the process – this mode involves power ups as well. King of the Hill tasks you with spending a certain amount of time on a crown while everyone else attempts to do the same as they kill you. Unlike the other modes, death does not mean the end in this mode, as you’ll respawn until someone has spent enough time with the crown.
There’s a lot for people that want to play with others, but is the game good for single player modes? Sure, it’s got a decent amount of game for those that would rather spend some time to themselves. In addition to the huge adventure mode, there’s the Bowhemoth which doesn’t save your progress, meaning you’ll likely be spending some time with this if you haven’t played it before (this is also multiplayer if you choose – the idea “but it’s better with friends” was prominent when making this). Once you’re competent with it, you’ll be able to do it in less than 20 minutes, but it’ll likely take some practice to get there. And while many of the levels you’ll come across in the adventure will last less than a minute from start to finish, you’ll probably be replaying levels over and over again – if not to get all the medals, to merely finish the level because you keep dying.
For those that enjoy crossovers, you’ll be pleased to see an assortment of indie characters from various franchises here, including Shantae, Shovel Knight, Commander Video, Gunvolt, and many more. You start with a few, but you’ll unlock the rest. None of the characters have any special abilities here and are merely skins. But they’re cool skins. If you’ve played something like Hue, you have an idea of how the changing background colors and colored platforms work in this. The basic idea is that the world you interact with is constantly changing, making you think on the fly about how you’ll approach each jump and dash. It also has you anticipating which the next color will be so you can go toward a barrier just in time for it to disappear.
This is a game that knows what it is, and it shows. Something as simple as spotlights become obstacles because they make the very ground underneath you disappear. The adventure breaks up its gameplay by not only having races to the finish line, but also killing a certain amount of enemies, hunting down a monster and killing him, as well as item collection. If there’s one thing that feels weak in this game, it’s the combat itself. Enemies work great as bouncy platforms, but actually attacking the beasts feel unnecessary and forced at times, causing more frustration than fun. Luckily this isn’t a huge part of the game, but it’s in enough of the levels that it hurt my enjoyment of the experience.
When the game space has all but abandoned local multiplayer, it’s always a wonder to see something like this thrive. Runbow is a wonderful platformer in its own right, but really shines with its addition of chaos once you hop online or have some friends over. As long as you aren’t looking for a party game that has overly complicated mechanics, you’ll have a lovely time with this.
8 out of 10
- Crazy Multiplayer Fun
- Diverse Levels
- Color Mechanics
- Occasionally Overwhelming Multiplayer Chaos
Runbow was developed by 13AM Games in conjunction with Stage Clear Studio and published by Headup Games. It launched on Wii U in 2015, PC in 2016, 3DS and X1 in 2017, and finally on NS and PS4 July 3rd, 2018 for $14.99. The game was provided to us for review on PS4. If you’d like to see more of Runbow, check out the official site.
Here at GBG we use a rating method that you are more than likely familiar with – a scale of 1 to 10. For clarification, we intend on using the entire scale: 1-4 is something you should probably avoid paying for; 5-7 is something that is worth playing, but probably not at full price; 8-10 is a great title that you can feel confident about buying. If you have any questions or comments about how we rate a game, please let us know.