Sunday, July 1, 2018

Runbow (NSW, PS4) Review

Earlier today, I posted the Review Round-Up for June 2018. I say, let's not waste any time by posting the first review for July! It's for a game I was quite enthusiastic about on the Wii U, it's Runbow! Here's my review of the Nintendo Switch version, though the PS4 is also mentioned.

Taste the Runbow

Originally a Wii U exclusive, Runbow has thankfully branched out and hit several other platforms, most recently, the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. Why "thankfully"? More people than ever before get to experience the wacky, wild, colorful wonder that brings hectic multiplayer mayhem that Runbow consistently delivers to players. Now, that the audience for Runbow is no longer limited to a struggling console, many more gamers around the world can finally get a taste of the Runbow.

Runbow is a chaotic 2D platformer where the goal is to complete the objective of each level without dying. Most of the time it's as "simple" as reaching the trophy at the end of the level. Other times, Runbow asks of you to collect a certain number of coins or defeat a specific amount of enemies. I put "simple" in quotes because Runbow has a highly creative mechanic to it that makes rushing through its levels to complete one of its three objectives far more challenging than it otherwise would be.

As you run through levels, the level's background every handful of seconds swipes its way to a different color on a consistent basis. For example, platforms that are orange and solid on a blue background disappear by sight and by touch when an orange background slides into view. Different levels offer a varying range and speed of colors being swiped, making for some truly tricky platforming.

Guest character Shantae from her titular Wayforward-developed
series leads a cavalcade of characters through this blazing cavern.
Runbow is easy to control, giving you access to a basic assortment of moves: a jump which can turn into a double jump, a normal punch to attack enemies when a normal bounce on the head just won't do, a rocket punch that can propel you upward for extra height or to the left or right for extra distance, as well as butt stomp to smash through floors and to defeat certain types of enemies. Sometimes I would find myself entering a double jump too quickly, resulting in deaths that I didn't feel were my complete fault, but when the game allows you infinite tries, it's a minor frustration.

The main Adventure mode sees you going through nearly 150 levels of color-swapping, platforming goodness, and these take place on one of four different, interconnected grids. You start at the bottom left corner, and as you complete levels, the spaces adjacent open up, allowing you to play them. Some levels are more difficult than others, with green levels being the easiest and red being the hardest. The nonlinear way you can go about picking levels makes it so if a particular levels is finding you frowning at its challenging, you can select an alternate one to attempt. Of course, completionists will want to complete every grid space and level possible--all the while looking to beat the top target time in order to earn three medals on each level.

Neither spikes nor enemies will stop our crew from reaching our prized trophy!
Medals are but one way to unlock a seemingly endless amount of content that Runbow has to offer. From over 15 guest characters from various indie games like Shovel Knight, SteamWorld Dig, Hyper Light Drifter, Freedom Planet, Shantae, Mutant Mudds, Azure Striker Gunvolt, The Fall, and more, to concept artwork and new costumes, Runbow is packed with more goodies inside than a pot of gold. Completing in-game achievements such as beating Adventure Mode, playing 10 multiplayer games, perform 10 butt stomps in one game, among others, unlocks new content, so you're essentially always unlocking something to keep you playing--which is no problem as the gameplay should do that for you by itself.

Outside of the Adventure Mode that can be played with friends cooperatively (or competitively as it sometimes was in the levels I played) there are three multiplayer modes available for local or online matches. Up to nine players locally can engage in a match, and for Nintendo Switch owners, this is made much easier than the Wii U original, where you needed to link controllers together just to play. Just with one JoyCon by itself, you have two controllers already accessible to you. I can only imagine that the PlayStation 4 version is a little tougher to rustle up multiple controllers to play locally, but thankfully, as stated, online is very much an option where on both platforms up to nine players can compete.

Modes in multiplayer include Run, Arena, and King of the Hill. Run is as simple as it sounds, having players rush from the start of a level to its end. The first player to nab the trophy at the goal is the victor. Arena is a survival mode where opponents fight to be the last one standing in one of multiple battlefields with varying hazards and power-ups in play. Finally, King of the Hill tasks players with taking command of a stationary point for seven seconds. You don't have to stand in the hill for seven concurrent seconds, just seven total. It can get insanely competitive and wild seeing players duke it out for the hill, smashing one another out of the way as they vie, however futile it is, to capture the hill for themselves.

This arena is only big enough for Juan player--Me!
Finally, for solo players, there's the ultimate challenge in Runbow that has you entering a colossal monster known as the Bowhemoth. This is an endurance run of the game's hardest levels, and you play through them one after the other. A tally keeps track of your deaths, and for those seeking a true trial, they can attempt to get the in-game achievement and unlockable goody of beating the mode with 10 deaths or less, or in 20 minutes. Either way, you're in for a stiff challenge with no way to save your progress until the very end.

The digital versions of Runbow on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 do not include the DLC of the Deluxe Edition. Those are included in the physical release coming at the end of the month, but need to purchased separately for digital downloaders. I didn't get to try the DLC out on the Nintendo Switch build I was playing, as it will be available at launch on Tuesday before the date this review was published. If the content is just as good as the Wii U's Deluxe Edition, then I believe it's worth buying, as it's a fair amount of content added to the Runbow package for those who are enjoying the game and want to experience even more fun that it has to offer.

The latest ports of Runbow mean that the game gets an wider audience, and that excites me. Not only was Runbow an incredibly good game on the Wii U, where it originally exclusively launched to a much smaller audience, but it definitely needs to be played by more people to catch Runbow fever. Between the clever color-swiping mechanic, the charming presentation with satisfying salsa and mambo music played on top of it, brilliant and challenging level design, nearly perfect controls, and a multitude of content to unlock, Runbow will colorize and brighten up your library, regardless of which console you get ready to Runbow on.

[SPC Says: A-]

Review code provided by Headup Games.

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