Developed By: DoubleDutch Games
Published By: tinyBuild Games
Category: Multiplayer, Party, Platformer, Racing
Release Date: 01.23.20
Do you like Mario Kart but wish it was a 2D side-scrolling platformer instead of a 3D arcade racer? You’re in luck, thanks to Speedrunners for the Nintendo Switch from DoubleDutch and tinyBuild. You assume the role of one of several super-powered heroes and/or villains looking to use their speed to beat the other speedsters to the scene of the crime – whether to prevent it or commit it is up to the runner. Honestly, the story was kind of… not really there? The game’s story mode has lots of speedsters challenging Speedrunner to races for… reasons? I tried to piece it together from the minimal pre-race dialogue and the game’s store page on the eShop, but honestly I decided it’s best to just ignore whatever there is that may qualify as a “story” and just enjoy the game – and trust me, there’s plenty to enjoy.
Every race takes place on a set course, and the races are run elimination style. If a runner falls far enough behind the leader (ie, they fall so far behind they’re not even on the game screen) then they are eliminated from the round. The last runner standing wins the round, and the first to win three rounds wins the race. Throughout the various courses, runners must contend with obstacles such as crates, walls, spikes, and lasers, as well as their fellow runners and their tricks. Every runner has a basic repertoire of moves consisting of running (duh), jumping, sliding under low platforms, and shooting a grappling hook at certain types of platforms. Weapons can be obtained from special boxes placed throughout the course, ranging from a simple crate drop to homing missiles to bombs to freeze rays and beyond.
There are a few different game modes to try out; versus, story, and practice. Versus is the main game mode, and can be played either single or multiplayer. The game allows both online and offline play, so you can try your luck against runners around the world or just your friends on your couch. You can even set up races against bots if you can’t find a game; I tried a few times and was always able to find a game, for what that’s worth. I did only try on the weekends, though. Practice has no winners or losers, you just run through a track alone trying to beat your times and get familiar with the course. Finally, story mode has you compete as Speedrunner in a series of races against opponents who challenge him.
Beating a character’s four story missions will unlock that character for use in versus or practice mode, but there are only four characters to unlock that way. The majority of the game’s characters are locked behind a paywall. I’ve got no problem with a dev making money where it can, but it feels a little misleading to see a huge roster in the character select screen only to have more than two thirds of them only unlockable via DLC. As far as I can tell, playing as new characters doesn’t really affect the game; everyone plays pretty much exactly the same, I just wish more characters were unlockable in the base game. New stages are unlocked by leveling up after winning races; there don’t appear to be any stages behind a paywall. You can also unlock new weapons and skins for unlocked characters via level up, so it’s not like there aren’t plenty of unlockables already in the game, I just wish the roster wasn’t so heavily skewed towards DLC.
As far as the visuals go, Speedrunners is a great-looking game. The game features fairly simple but attractive cartoony 2D graphics. The characters have unique, charming designs that scream “zany superhero shenanigans” that wouldn’t be out of place in The Tick or The Venture Bros. The backgrounds are fairly detailed, but simple enough that you can see what’s going on even when the game is moving at top speed. The music is boisterous and jazzy – reminiscent of a more electronic version of JG Thirlwell’s score for The Venture Bros that still features plenty of blaring horns. Overall, the art direction – like the gameplay – is very satisfying.
I dropped Mario Kart’s name in the opening, and despite Speedrunners being a 2D game, that really is the closest comparison I can think of for it. It evokes the same feeling of fun and competition I remember having when four of us crammed ourselves together on a couch to play it back in my college days and has some similar weapons – and therefore similar strategies – to employ in pursuit of victory. The different viewing angle gives it a distinct feel, however, making for a refreshing change of pace if you’re looking for something a little different from your average arcade racer. Overall, Speedrunners looks great and plays smooth – if you love racing games and/or platforming and you’re looking for something new, this should be at the top of your list.
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*A game code was provided for review purposes.