Thanks to Headup Games for the review code
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 07/03/2018
In a world filled with people with no mouths for whatever reason, Hue, Val and their many clones are out having fun being movie stars, while a jealous Satura decides to take action and turn herself into the star! Hue and Val must team up to explore their old landscapes and reclaim their place from Satura once and for all!
Runbow goes with a very distinct art style, using constantly changing colors as a background in order to tie into the gameplay, and thus having black be the “safe color” in that anything that’s colored black won’t vanish or change based on the circumstances, since whenever the background changes to a certain color, all walls and platforms of that color will vanish as well, changing up levels and causing trouble for those who aren’t prepared. Of course, your character and the enemies aren’t directly affected by the color changes, save for some of the enemies which have colored shields around them that will only vanish when that color is the background. Combined with a colorful presentation are some outstanding upbeat tracks that fit the fast-paced nature of the game to a T.
Val and Hue are deliberately plain and stupid looking, which is why there’s a ton of customization options for the duo in order thanks to the crapload of accessories you can unlock via clearing achievements, but if that isn’t a thing you care for much then you can go with the many, many indie guest characters that show up here. Characters from Freedom Planet, Mutant Mudds, Xeodrifter, and Bit Trip Runner among quite a few others are here, and they all use their own sound clips from the games they come from. For characters like Max and Xeodrifter, these fit perfectly as their jump and double jump sounds are just like they are from their source game. Unforunately, characters like Lilac can be downright grating due to voice clips that repeat with every jump, so it depends on the character you choose. If you aren’t for any of these old sounds, Val and Hue are completely mute so sticking with them is ideal.
Runbow works as both a action-packed party game, and a single player adventure with plenty of challenges to take on. The main attraction is the multiplayer, which is incorporated into every mode while having several exclusive modes. The multiplayer-exclusive modes are Run, a mode where you and up to seven other people can race to the end of the stage and be the first one to grab the trophy, Arena, my personal favorite of these modes where you simply work to be the last one standing as you beat up everyone else, and King of the Hill which has you claim a crown for a certain length of time before you win.
In general, all three of these modes are a lot of fun, and I was lucky enough to get a six-person local multiplayer party started which worked out great for testing all of these modes in the best way possible, since playing alone or with one other person isn’t nearly as entertaining, since Arena and King of the Hill end too quickly and Run feels like a practice mode. With everyone else competing at the same time, however these modes are a blast, and lots of intense battles were had in these modes, with Arena being the most popular as it felt like the one where skill wouldn’t really be a handicap like it is for Run or King of the Hill, since it’s the last man standing who wins instead of whoever reaches the end or stays in a place for long enough.
In Run mode, if you die you simply sit out for the rest of the game, and if everyone dies the round is skipped, and King of the Hill has infinite respawns, yet neither of these tend to feel nearly as intense as arena since a skilled player could easily beat everyone else every single time, but Arena’s lower barrier to entry makes it much more fun and a mode I’ll certainly be playing for many multiplayer sessions to come.
While these three modes can also be played online as well, I still found local multiplayer to be more engaging, but it’s nice to see that online support is added for those who want to battle with friends or random people from all over the world. Some things you can’t do online however, include co-oping the Adventure mode and the Bowhemoth, two modes focused on clearing single-player challenges. Bowhemoth is a lot simpler than Adventure, since it’s just a gauntlet into the shadow realm of really tough levels with no way to save and quit for a later time, yet that isn’t much of a big deal considering how it can be cleared in a half hour, and is really meant for speedrunning purposes.
Adventure Mode is where the main content of the game comes from, and is where solo-players will be spending their time the most, although as mentioned earlier you can have friends join in for co-op. In this mode, you must traverse a map and clear levels to unlock adjacent ones, making your own path to Satura’s lair in each of the four worlds. Levels are ranked from Easy (Green) to Hard, (Red) and none of them are meant to take more than a minute save for the boss levels, which help keeps the game fast-paced and makes the most challenging levels more fun since the “one more try” aspect these levels invoke make it very easy to jump right back in. In fact, if you want to go after some achievements, you can even aim for getting the absolute best time in each of these stages, which will reward you with up to three medals for the stage depending on how you do, making the true challenge of this mode coming from whether or not you can get all the best times in every stage. Co-Op feels like an afterthought here, since all of these levels are like Run mode, in that dying will lead to the player sitting out until everyone else dies or the level’s finished, and combined with the friendly fire still on it makes this mode absolutely chaotic.
With all that said, the levels in adventure mode aren’t all about grabbing trophies. Some levels change up the end goal quite a bit, from having you defeat a certain amount of enemies to collecting a certain amount of coins. (the latter of which are my favorite kinds of levels) These levels tend to be even shorter than the usual 30 second run stages, which makes these levels a great challenge if you ant to get a three-medal score on them. There’s even DLC available with a brand new Adventure mode map starring Satura, although I wasn’t able to test it for the sake of this review.
In conclusion, Runbow’s still an incredible multiplayer game all these years later. With a frantic trio of multiplayer-focused modes to a lengthy single player with plenty of replay value, there’s tons to enjoy here for the $15 price point, especially when you factor in aiming for three medals on every stage AND collecting all the in-game achievements, which unlock more accessories for Hue and Val, along with the aforementioned guest characters. While I do wish this version had all the paid DLC bundled in like with Runbow Pocket, it is somewhat understandable to keep the base game the standard price since the only thing the DLC provides outside of that bonus Adventure map comes from more costumes for Hue and Val, as the free DLC for new guest characters that launched on Wii U are built into the game by default, which is very handy. Regardless, whether you played it before or are new to it, this is certainly a must-own for Switch multiplayer sessions, and a great recommendation for some single player challenges too!
I give Runbow a 9 out of 10.