When you think party games, a 2D platformer isn’t the first genre that comes to mind. Instead, you might think of games like Mario Party or Super Smash Bros. However, Runbow makes a strong case to be present at your next gaming session with friends. On top of that, it boasts a solid amount of single-player and online content for when you’re alone.
Runbow is a basic, 2D platformer which has you running from left to right to reach a set goal. Of course, it’s going to have a twist. What sets Runbow apart is actually the background, as it changes the way you play. The plain background will cycle through different colors as you run. Platforms of the same color will also meld into the background. For example, if the background is blue, all blue platforms will vanish. This simple change makes Runbow a unique experience and different from any other platformer.
The controls of Runbow are basic, which works to its advantage. You have two actions: jump and attack. You can use the attack button to do an aerial dash after jumping to gain extra distance. That’s the most complex tool you have at your disposal when tackling the various obstacles. The simplicity of movement is brought to life by the clever level design and the color mechanic. Runbow also emphasizes speed and constant forward momentum. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to mistime a jump. The feeling of being constantly on the move is what helps Runbow’s platforming feel unique.
The single-player content of Runbow is extensive and challenging. The regular adventure mode has 170 levels which is quite generous. Of course, not every level is fun to play, but the majority are. It’s astounding that 13AM Games has managed to create so many engaging levels that aren’t afraid to ramp up the difficulty. Levels are divided into several sections, each with a boss fight against the antagonist, Sutara. These boss levels start with some challenging platforming as you work your way to Sutara. Finally, you punch her in the face and complete the level.
The other single-player mode is called Bowhemoth. This is a special challenge mode with some of the hardest platforming sections the game has to offer. It takes place inside of a giant behemoth. The environment is different from anything else in the game as it is literally the intestines and stomach of the behemoth. The background colors are also different shades of pink and off-white to reflect this change. The Bowhemoth mode is a great addition if you find the standard adventure too simple and easy.
Both of these single-player modes are fun and offer a ton of depth and replayability. With 170 levels plus a challenging hardcore mode, you can get plenty of hours out of this. Besides this content, Runbow is all about that local co-op. There are three different game modes for multiplayer: Run, Skirmish and King of the Hill.
Run is the basic game mode where the players must progress through a level to reach the end. What sets this mode apart is the sheer amount of customization available to you. You can change which colors are in the background, increase the number of colors and also ramp up the difficulty. Add in eight player local co-op, and Runbow offers the same wild fun like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. You can ease on the craziness if you want by disabling power-ups and lowering the difficulty. The best part of Runbow’s local multiplayer is the large number of options to adjust the gameplay.
The other two modes are King of the Hill and Skirmish. They are both similar in layout, with the main difference being the goal of the game. In King of the Hill, you have to occupy a specific spot for a set amount of time. In Skirmish, the goal is to be the last person standing. Once again, the fun factor is heightened by the customization options. Adding more colors and power-ups can make gameplay enjoyable. Whichever mode you choose to play, Runbow will always deliver an exciting experience for fans of local multiplayer.
If you prefer online multiplayer, then there might be some bad news. Runbow does have online multiplayer for all its game modes, either open play or private matches. The issue is that online servers are barren, and open play means you won’t get a match. It’s a shame that online servers are empty, since Runbow caters to the multiplayer crowd. This is no fault of the game, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re an online enthusiast.
There are a couple of issues with Runbow. The major problem is that you can’t add AI opponents to the multiplayer modes. It’s understandable that the focus is on playing with friends, but it’s still good to have the option. It would be unacceptable in a game like Super Smash Bros., and it’s the same here. Another minor issue is the small countdown at the start of a level. The reason it’s there is to emulate the beginning of a race. However, when you’re repeating a tough level multiple times it becomes mildly annoying.
Conversely, the visual and audio presentation of Runbow maintains a high standard. The colors are bright, which help the stylistic backgrounds stand out even more. The simple graphics are helpful as they allow you to clearly see where you’re going. The screen never feels cluttered, even with eight people playing at the same time. The music has a jazzy feel to it that is full of energy. Although the music can feel repetitive at times, the soundtrack is great.
These problems don’t detract from the overall experience. Yes, it would’ve been better if you could play against AI and turn off the countdown. Yet, Runbow is still a fun game with an emphasis on local co-op. There are fewer games than ever before that put in the effort to deliver a substantial couch co-op experience. If you want a game that you can enjoy with your mates, then Runbow is a must-buy. It becomes harder to recommend if you intend to play it alone, but the solid platforming challenges are worth the price of admission.
Arshad reviewed Runbow on PS4 with a code provided by the developer.