SpeedRunners Review

By Megan Walton, 1 year ago
It's fair to say that the Games with Gold program has been a mixed bag, with some gems and some letdowns and everything in between. Every so often we get treated to a brand new release, and this month has followed that trend. SpeedRunners is a cross between a platformer and a racing game, where the aim is to be as fast as you can to win, and you definitely don't want to get left behind in this race.

SpeedRunners — a game about running really <i>really</i> fastSpeedRunners — a game about running really really fast

SpeedRunners is essentially a race, but it comes with a slight twist. The game is a sidescroller, so you'll be focusing on running, jumping, and grappling left, right, up and down. While obviously your aim is to win, there is no finish line to reach and no set number of laps around the course. As you and three companion characters sprint around the level, you have to keep close to the leader. If you fall too far behind and drop out of the screen, you die. Similarly, if the race begins to take too long, the actual screen itself will start getting smaller and smaller, making it easier to drop out. Dropping out of the screen and dying is not a new concept in games, but the way it is done in SpeedRunners feels quite different from anything else because of the pure speed and traversal mechanics used to keep you running — and alive.

This demanding quickness begins right as you boot up the game as you are thrown into a race and told the controls as you are running. It feels a little overwhelming at first, as these prompts are quite easily missed and it might take you a while to retain them. There is a practise mode if you feel you need a bit more time to get to grips with the game before jumping into one of the other modes, which is nice, plus this mode still offers you XP for completing the races. Your main objective is to get far enough ahead of the other three characters so that the screen catches up with them and they lose and thus you win. You must do this three times in total in order to fully complete the level, and consequently bank your XP and move onto the next. Depending on how well you or another character does, these three wins can take a while or can be considerably quick, but the nature of the game means each race is different from the last and you never quite know what to expect.

The longevity of SpeedRunners is improved with the game's power-ups. As you play more of the game and earn XP from completing and winning races, you will unlock new power-ups to use as well. There are those that help you gain ground, such as the gold hook which grabs the player in front and pulls them behind you, or ones to help you if you're the frontrunner, such as blocks you can drop that other characters can trip over. There's also a number of other helpful power-ups including fireballs, ice beams and rockets, which are each helpful in their own way. Some can take out multiple enemies at once although sometimes they can also backfire and hurt you, so figuring out when is best to use these to gain maximum advantage can be quite an enjoyable challenge given the speed at which you're tasked with making those and other decisions.

Grabbing someone with the golden hook is always a helping handGrabbing someone with the golden hook is always a helping hand

There's a fair amount of levels on offer, and again you will unlock more as you earn XP and level up. The levels feel varied across the game and within each race. You will explore most of these in the story mode, which consists of four chapters of four individual races, so 16 in total. This does feel quite short for a story mode, but most of your game time will come from playing multiplayer, either online or locally, which gives the game its best suite of gameplay and offers the most fun of any mode.

You will always be racing against three others characters in the story mode, but in the multiplayer you can customise the games to race against one, two or three other people, whether that is local or online. Racing other people online is a lot of fun, especially when no-one really knows the path and there are power-ups flying all over the place. The online seemed reliable in-game, though it did sometimes take a while to actually find some players to join a match.

The main concern with the game is how the camera can't always keep all racers framed properly, like when there is a great divide between first and last place. On top of that, generally you can't see what is coming up next in the level, so don't be surprised if you run into boxes or miss a switch to open a new path, because you won't know where they are unless or until you memorize the levels.

On a more positive note, the soundtrack that accompanies the game is as upbeat as the racing itself. The fast paced music is the perfect accompaniment for the chaos in the game, and although it may start to get a little repetitive after a while, it feels well suited. While you can't change the music, you can change your character and how they look. Again, characters and new skins are unlocked as you level up, or you can purchase them as extra DLC. No character or skin is objectively better than any other, but it is a welcome addition to change your look to make you stand out a bit more, which can also be handy online if people pick the same character.

Grappling is a quick and easy way to get around, but you can't do it everywhereGrappling is a quick and easy way to get around, but you can't do it everywhere

In terms of achievements, there are only 18 to earn here, but this is not necessarily a quick list. You'll be wanting to complete all of the chapters in the story mode first, and then try and do it on the hardest difficulty, which is no easy feat. Using your power-ups in certain ways will earn you some other achievements, such as hitting three players with one ice beam and deflecting a fireball with a shockwave. The one that will probably take you the longest is to earn maximum XP, but this can be boosted in custom matches, so might not be quite as daunting as it first seems.

Summary

SpeedRunners is simple but fun, and is definitely made more fun with the addition of three friends. The chaos of the fast gameplay, the power-ups, and the welcome stress of keeping pace makes a great combination. Whether it's online with friends or offline with the bots, the game mostly works well mechanically, outside of some camera concerns. It does feel a little overwhelming at first and the story mode feels short, but thanks to the multiple modes on offer, SpeedRunners is a race worth chasing.
3.5 / 5
SpeedRunners
Positives
  • Simplistic but fun gameplay
  • Multiplayer is enjoyable chaos
  • Nice level designs and variety
Negatives
  • Tutorial is a baptism by fire
  • Screen can't always keep up
  • Story mode feels a bit short
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 5 hours running really fast and blowing people up along the way, unlocking 16 of the game's 18 achievements. A code was provided for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Megan Walton
Written by Megan Walton
Megan is a TA newshound and reviewer who has been writing for the site since early 2014. Currently working in catering, she enjoys cooking extravagant dishes, baking birthday cakes for friends and family in peculiar shapes, writing depressing poetry about life and death, and unlocking every achievement possible.