During Target's short stay in Canada, I worked there as an overnight truck unloader. Overnight jobs suck, but there's something about the solitary atmosphere and a tight-knit team that permanently burns memories into your brain. The most prominent memory for me was gathering with some co-workers in the break room to play as many races in a 2D platforming racer app called Fun Run as possible. We would get furious at each other while playing; so much so that the competitive banter almost always carried into the rest of our shift. However, the app felt like a basic, underdeveloped beginning of an idea – just scraping the surface of the potential of a 2D racer. SpeedRunners takes the feeling I had playing Fun Run and turns it into a fully fleshed out competitive experience.
SpeedRunners is outstanding. The quirky characters, fun soundtrack, and terrific level design form together to make one cohesive whole: a perfect 2D platformer racing game. In order to win, players have to outrun their opponents in a cyclical level with optional advantageous elements. At first, I would just run, jump and slide to try to keep up with the crowd. Eventually, I started to notice optimal paths, grapple-swinging techniques and other mechanics that set me apart from the players that would leave me in their dust. SpeedRunners is a perfect example of “easy to play, hard to master”.
The game’s main attraction is the competitive multiplayer mode, which pits players against three other runners in a first-to-three-wins competition. Players use a variety of useful items and boosts to get ahead, while dodging crates and enemy projectiles along the way. Sounds easy, right? I certainly thought it was, before I jumped into a ranked game and got decimated. The thing is, there’s a huge difference between being able to avoid the map's hazards effectively and making the most of every map element. For example, when I would grapple onto a ceiling and swing across to gain speed, my competitors would one-up me by perfectly optimizing their swing to land them on a higher platform. Often, these small tactics gave my opponents the advantage, and ultimately, the win.
However, SpeedRunners isn’t all about map memorization and optimization; sometimes a scrub like me can get ahead with the use of the terrific in-game items. Each item can usually be used in a variety of ways, as well. The boulder item allows players to toss a high-speed boulder at enemies ahead – but it doesn’t necessarily have to go forward. My personal favourite SpeedRunners moment was when I obtained the boulder, and quickly turned around to throw it at the unsuspecting runners that were hot on my heels. The best part is, I don’t know how I thought of it in time – I just did it. And that’s part of the beauty of SpeedRunners: split-second, high-pressure decision-making. While there is certainly an advantage to learning and getting comfortable with each map, it’s great that new players still stand a chance against the early access veterans if they play smart. (And yeah, I’m tooting my own horn. The boulder thing was phenomenal.)
The ranking system and leagues make sense, but sometimes low-ranked players will be unable to match with players of the same rank, so the game will often pit you against players well above your skill level. This can be very frustrating, especially for SpeedRunners newcomers.
Although multiplayer is the meat and potatoes of SpeedRunners, there’s great single player content too. And thank the Speed Gods there is, because without the ability to practice against bots, my confidence would be down the toilet. The story mode is great, with four difficulty options to cater to the wide audience SpeedRunners has acquired during its time in early access. Each harder difficulty has separate progress from the last, so clearing the game on easy mode will have no affect on unfair mode, although clearing unfair mode will clear all difficulties below it. The bots simply don’t have time for your crap in unfair mode- They’ll dodge your items, gracefully leap crates and flawlessly choose the optimal path. I think this difficulty will provide a challenge for even the speediest runners.
The workshop allows players to create and upload their own maps, which have the potential to appear in the map selection during games. The editor is a simple interface that allows for pretty complex creations. After a few minutes of tinkering around with it, I found it pretty easy to make a decent-looking setting that would make mom proud. Although with more time and effort, you could certainly make a visually appealing and functional level.
My only gripe with SpeedRunners is the way the game screen-minimizes in a sudden-death type situation. It makes sense when a game is starting to drag on, but it isn't executed as well as it could be. For instance, I was in the lead of a race, and the screen began to shrink. "No problem," I thought, "She's way behind me." But at the exact moment of my internal reassurance, my opponent started to move vertically - and although she was still behind me in the race, the screen followed her character instead of mine, causing me to explode in the screen's boundaries. However, this camera glitch only happened to me once throughout my many games.
One last thing- you’d be doing yourself a huge disservice by playing this game with the keyboard. I highly recommend using a controller. Personally, I used a Dualshock 4, but any controller works fine. Using a controller makes the game much more enjoyable, and you might actually stand a chance against your opponents.
SpeedRunners is a must-have for all Steam users. Whether you want a fun party game to play with friends, or a deep competitive experience, SpeedRunners has you covered.