Thanks to the lovely application that is Steam and my elderly, yet surprisingly capable laptop, I have been enjoying some fantastic titles I wouldn’t have normally. I’ve recently had the pleasure of experiencing SpeedRunners on Steam. For those that don’t know, SpeedRunners was originally released on the Xbox Live Marketplace in 2011, titled SpeedRunner HD. I, however, have been playing the Early Access version on Steam. The Steam version is a completely different game than the one currently available on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Unlike the Xbox version, the multiplayer features 5 characters, opposed to the Xbox version which only includes the main character, SpeedRunner in different colored costumes. The PC version also isn’t limited to local multiplayer like in the Xbox version, featuring online play. The PC version appears to be sort of a “relaunch” as DoubleDutch and tinyBuild, have recreated a completely different game than the original. They are also still developing the title, adding characters and stages until the game reaches completion.
It’s also worth noting that the Xbox version is focused on the story, which I’ll discuss later, with the option to play local multiplayer with others.
Story & Concept
When the city is in danger, there is always a hero available to save the day. The problem is that the city is flooded with too many heroes. As a result, the heroes compete against one another to make it to the scene of the crime first. The heroes use grapple hooks, items, and create obstacles that thwart the others in their efforts. Picture Mario Kart on foot. It’s chaotic.
SpeedRunners’ multiplayer mode currently features 5 characters: Cosmonaut Comrade, Hothead, the main character, SpeedRunner, Unic, and newly added, Moonraker (not pictured). I’ve played this game alone with bots and online with friends – it is simply a blast overall. The Early Access version relies heavily on the multiplayer aspect of the game. Upon writing this article, the story mode was not available yet to play, but has been recently added. The story mode is a single player experience that measures how effectively and quickly you can make it to the ticking time bomb, that the main villain plants in a particular part of the city, before time runs out. Although the multiplayer is a heavy focus, the story mode is extremely fun featuring in-game rewards to collect (not to be confused with Steam achievements) that add to the tally of your overall score at the end of each level. Reaching the bomb in time, evading obstacles, and attempting to beat your own score are, in my opinion, the best parts of the game. When the story mode was added in the latest update, I honestly didn’t think that it was possible to beat the multiplayer in fun-factor. This recent addition definitely provided that.
Gameplay, Visuals, & Audio
SpeedRunners is a fast-paced, 2D, sidescrolling platformer. Every character uses various items, along with the essential tool, the grapple hook, to outrun and discourage the other heroes from getting ahead of the pack. Controller options consist of keyboard and mouse, full controller, and partial controller support. In my opinion, this game controls best with a physical controller. The controllers that I’ve personally used to play this game have been my Xbox 360 controller and DualShock 3 contoller (with converter software).
The visuals on SpeedRunners are very simplistic using very geometric shapes and flat planes to create the landscape. The characters are all unique in their appearance, but their move sets are essentially the same aside from their slide move to dodge low obstacles that hang from the ceiling. The visuals in the story mode are much more polished than those found in the multiplayer, which makes sense as the multiplayer is still in beta. Even still, the multiplayer is so intense and fast paced that most of the background visuals and the characters are blurred during gameplay. It doesn’t take away from the overall experience.
One of the key components of the game is the music. As the menu music, level theme music, and battle music are essentially the same tune with slight variations, they definitely add to the urgency that the game wants to convey. When nearing the end of a competitive match, the music speeds up and the screen gets smaller, adding a bit more challenge and intensity to the foot race. The variations of the tune when the match intensifies definitely keeps the player engaged. Surprisingly, although the tunes don’t change from stage to stage, it suits the occasion and never gets repetitive.
Why you should try it?
Although this game isn’t the typical, story-driven, “takes-itself-so-seriously” game. It is a ton of fun that could potentially last for hours when playing against the right people. Although there aren’t many modes yet, the local and multiplayer aspects of the game are enough to keep you coming back. When you play this game enough to master the stages, learn how to use the items, and time jumps properly in order to traverse each level more effectively, the payoff is incredibly rewarding. Since DoubleDutch and tinyBuild have now included the story mode from the original version along with the multiplayer aspects of the game, I would very easily buy this game again and send it to a friend. The makers of SpeedRunners also do a fantastic job at keeping the players entertained. They sometimes add challenges that completely change up the gameplay. I personally hope they decide to port it to consoles. Players everywhere would fall in love with its old-school styled challenge and competitive nature.
If you have the money to spare and a decent computer, I’d definitely recommend you buy this game and tell your friends about it.
Check out the original SpeedRunner HD on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
Play the free browser version: http://www.doubledutchgames.com/speedrunner
Check out the Early Access Version on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/207140/