Platform Wii U
Developer 13AM Games Publisher 13AM Games
When one thinks of party titles, games such as Rock Band, Just Dance, Wii Sports, or Super Smash Bros may come to mind, but Runbow makes a solid case to be a contender for that list, particularly by allowing up to nine individuals to play simultaneously. Not completely unlike Speedrunners, Runbow is a fast-paced platformer which demands players adapt to ever-changing levels, obstacles, and automatically-activated items. Using background colours to modify which paths and platforms are available creates a frenzied platforming experience and tests the strength of your friendships.
The core mechanic at the heart of Runbow is the background colour affecting foreground items. Whichever colour the background is, the environmental pieces in the foreground which share that colour will completely disappear, allowing you to move through spaces previously blocked off. However, once the background changes, those items which were invisible are once again permanent fixtures while other portions of the terrain disappear. Many of the early levels or competitive multiplayer levels have backgrounds which change colour relatively slowly, allowing for inexperienced players to become comfortable with the title without losing instantly or becoming frustrated. This is not to suggest that there are no difficult levels, as there are, but the majority of the competitive levels are on the simpler side and it greatly benefits the accessibility of this title. Due to the fact that Runbow is designed to be enjoyed by many of varying skill levels, this is one of its biggest strengths and will ensure it does not exclude potential players due to difficulty.
There are a number of modes found in Runbow, all of which are available from the moment you start up the game for the first time. There are some standard modes such as King of the Hill, Arena (fighting your friends to be the last one standing), and Run (racing to be the first player to reach the finish), but there are also some more unique modes. Colour Master is similar to the Run mode, except that one player uses the gamepad to manipulate the level, attempting to stop all of the racers from reaching the level’s end by placing obstacles in their path, strategically striking them with lightning, or inserting their own racer into the level to fight the others. Adventure is a massive grid of various challenges ranging from collecting coins to completing a level to defeating all of the enemies in a stage, but completing a challenge merely unlocks the adjacent ones on the grid as you work your way to the far corners in the name of completing the mode. This is the closest Runbow gets to a story mode, serving up a handful of brief cutscenes portraying an antagonist who feels left out, and seeks to destroy everything in retaliation. The final mode is the Bowhemoth, presenting the player(s) with an unknown number of levels to complete while keeping track of cumulative deaths, play time, and forcing you to complete it all in one sitting as there is no save function.
Most of Runbow‘s modes require at least two players, although Adventure and Bowhemoth support single player action. The game truly shines when played with others locally, but there is a healthy balance in regards to level design. Approximately half of them provide an advantage to single player platforming while the other half favours multiplayer, ensuring that neither style of play is completely neglected or at a constant disadvantage. This design choice is also partly what is responsible for some of the difficulty as several players all struggling to jump onto the same platform from a large distance away results in many individuals falling to their demise while a single player will have a much tougher time killing all of the enemies in a room without dying. While the game’s difficulty may be evenly divided between single player and multiplayer, the game loses much of its charm when playing solo, clearly identifying primarily as a multiplayer title.
Adventure mode is thoroughly enjoyable as a multiplayer experience due to the diversity of tasks assigned, but those in search of a true challenge will want to tackle the Bowhemoth. Contrary to what the game may tell you, the payoff for completing this mode is not at all worth the frustration and effort spent attempting to complete it, but finally succeeding will reward you with an immense sense of accomplishment. Choosing to join forces with some friends to best this mode will test the durability of your friendships as you will inevitably perform at least a handful of actions which directly result in their death and they will do the same to you. This is all part of the fun of Runbow of course, but the Bowhemoth takes this to another level.
In addition to a multitude of game modes, there are countless unlockable costumes and characters to be found in this game. These range from simple costumes for the default characters to cameo appearances by title characters from other indie games. Juan from Guacamelee and Commander Video from BIT.TRIP RUNNER are just two examples of these guest appearances, and trying to unlock more of these characters proves to be slightly more addicting than you would expect, as you never know who will show up next. Once you have unlocked a costume or character, you are free to use them in any game mode you like, and they will all control in precisely the same manner to ensure there is no unfair advantage.
Runbow is a chaotic, frantic platformer perfect for parties. With the competitive levels being relatively simplistic, anyone is able to pick up a controller and join in without feeling completely hopeless, although the game offers some significant challenges for those willing to test their mettle. Everything the game offers can be experienced in roughly eight hours, although it will take significantly longer than that to finish unlocking various cosmetic options. Runbow excels in offering short bursts of competition given that individual races do not last very long. This fact is yet another factor aiding in its accessibility, as committing to a game is merely spending five to ten minutes playing. The controls are fairly tight, performing as they should the vast majority of the time, and the constantly changing backgrounds ensure no two games are ever the same. The biggest shortcoming of the title is the requirement of more than one player for most of the game modes simply because it restricts so much of the game. There is online play, but it is nowhere near as enjoyable as couch co-op, particularly on the Wii U, making a local gaming partner almost essential for the title. Fantastic as a multiplayer game, Runbow excels in providing bursts of fun to people of all skill levels. The Bowhemoth presents a phenomenal challenge to seasoned platform gamers, unlockable content will keep your attention span, but once your friends leave your house, your desire to play will likely dwindle.
- No shortage of unlockable content
- Easily accessible to every skill level
- Colour-based platforming is a refreshing twist on the genre
- Multiplayer requirement restricts the majority of game modes
- Ending of Bowhemoth game mode is incredibly underwhelming
The Score: 8.4
Eric is an Xbox editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and everything else that rhymes with those words. ‘Like’ Analog Addiction on Facebook to receive all of the updates as they’re posted.