REVIEW / SpeedRunners (PC)

 

Almost every weekend, some friends and I gather at my apartment to play some fun local multiplayer games. Local multiplayer is dying, and no matter what you play online, it’s not the same as trash talking your opponents to their faces. We’ve found that outside of Super Smash Bros, it’s indie party games that do this best. I’ve written about a few of them before, in fact. Just last week, we tried Speedrunners, to see if we could add another local multiplayer game to our list. Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to playing it again this weekend.

 

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Speedrunners is a platforming racing game, for lack of a better description. Up to four players race across two dimensional landscapes, with multiple paths and Mario Kart-esque items to hinder opponents. As the race goes on, the screen gets smaller and smaller, with the camera focused on the player in first. Once someone ends up behind the border  (or off screen if you prefer), they’re out. The screen then continues to get smaller until one person is left; they get a point. The race then resets, around where the last person got out, until someone gets three points (by default).

The courses loop, so there is no finish line. The race re-starts around where the last person got out. The tracks aren’t very detailed, but there is enough going on that the game doesn’t get too boring. Some paths can be moved by running past levers, and others may have item boxes or areas that charge up your boost. There are also some areas with spikes or other hazards, which you need to think quickly to avoid. You have a grappling hook, along the ability to slide, double jump and wall jump, so you have to quickly figure out how to avoid obstacles. It adds a good challenge, especially for the player in first, who can’t see very far in front of them.

 

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Racing in this game is a blast, and it’s a lot of fun to use the grappling hook and special jumps to outsmart opponents. Mastering the course lets you speed through like a pro, watching your opponents trip over boxes or fail a tight jump. It has a lot of the freedom of movement you’d find in something like Mirror’s Edge or a Spider-Man game, but within a sidescrolling race. If you enjoy that sort of game, you’ll probably like this too.

That said, you have to have an opportunity for local multiplayer to really enjoy this game to the fullest extent. There is a very short story mode, and you can play online, but I feel Speedrunners is best played with opponents in the room. The competition feels more real that way, and it makes the satisfaction of winning that much sweeter.

 

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Another thing I like about Speedrunners is that it’s the first 2D game I’ve played in a long time that doesn’t use retro pixel art. The developers clearly share my distaste for the overuse of this style, as they announced a permanent switch to pixel graphics as an April Fool’s joke. Instead, the art style is a different sort of retro, like what you’d find in a 1960’s bowling alley.

It uses dynamic lines and flat colors for a timeless look, but it can make the character portraits and other out of game graphics look unfinished. It works pretty well in game, though. And while the stages are sparsely decorated, it’s all in the name of helping you keep track of the speedy gameplay.

 

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And if speedy gameplay sounds good to you (and if you’re able to bring some friends around), this is one of the best games on Steam. It’s in the same category as games like Gang Beasts (from which it borrows characters) or Duck Game that any four people can pick up and enjoy for hours. Traversing around the stages takes some skill, but it’s immensely satisfying when you get it right.

Speedrunners is not the deepest game. And it’s not the prettiest game. But the fast pace and smooth mechanics more than make up for that. And hey, you can download YouTube stars as DLC, so who could complain?   

 

 

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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