Well, Color Us Impressed…
by: Greg Hall Reviewed on Nintendo Switch Review copy provided to us by Headup Games
As a speedrunner, I love it when games have the word “run” in the title; I am automatically intrigued. Throw in some frantic multiplayer, more cameos than a Star Wars/MCU crossover & you’ve got Runbow, a great title from Canadian constructs 13AM Games whether you’re playing by yourself or with friends, either real or imaginary.
First, let’s talk about the solo experience before we get to the insanity that is the multiplayer. With over 140 stages, Adventure mode pits you in grid based progression where you pick your path to defeat Satura, the game’s main antagonist. While the story doesn’t necessarily get much deeper than that, it doesn’t have to in this instance.
Levels are either green, yellow or red to help signify the degree of difficulty, but let’s be honest, even the green stages tend to be a challenge at times. It’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, but instead turning to a different page to progress the story, you decide if you want to read in a larger font or a different language! Each level you complete comes with a feeling of pure platforming satisfaction with seemingly every death feeling like it was your own fault.
photo by: Greg Hall
From a speedrunning perspective, Runbow is a fantastic option. It has an on-screen timer for individual level runners & offers enough stages to make for a meaty full-game run that is tight on speed tech & requires precise platforming, but low on RNG (or randomness/luck). The only thing that can be tedious & frustrating is the three second countdown before each level & after each death, as it brings Runbow’s pace to somewhat of a halt for a game that you will fail at… a lot.
The game’s Bowhemoth mode is the ideal for speedrunning, as it is arguably the toughest challenge the game has to offer, but can be memorized & mastered in due time. You’re dropped into the belly of a beast, literally, with increasingly difficult platforming stages thrown at you gauntlet-style. Our first run clocked in at just over two hours to complete, but in just two days, we had it cut down to 38 minutes. There is also no three second countdown in this mode.
Runbow feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch as it is perfect for a 10 minute session to kill time on the go or popping off the Joy Con at your next party for some local multiplayer hijinks.
I haven’t even touched on the mechanic that makes Runbow so special. This colorful creation offers a literal wave of blues, purples, greens & so much more to help (or hinder) you through each stage. Background colors change, either revealing to removing platforms of the same hue. For example, if the background is orange, any platforms, lasers or walls that are orange disappear until the color changes. The patterns don’t differ from run to run, making memorization important, & each new color is shown briefly before taking over the screen, so you have a second or two to react & adjust accordingly.
This also bleeds over into the multiplayer, both local & online. You can play locally with up to four players & online takes that number to a whopping nine! Run mode offers each player a frantic race to the finish while Arena is a Balloon Fight-esque fight to survive, minus the balloons. King of the Hill has players vying for dominance over a single control point. While Run mode never seems to dull, there are only so many times Arena & King of the Hill can be played before feeling a bit repetitive.
photo courtesy of Headup Games/13AM Games
From Shovel Knight to our good buddy Gunvolt, Runbow offers almost 20 unlockable characters to create color coordinated madness with! This is the perfect touch, especially in single player, as I found myself wanting to beat each stage with all of my favorite characters, adding a layer of replayability.
As far as the soundtrack goes, what is there is fantastic, but this is where Runbow could use some legs. It’s not the quality or even overall quantity of the tracks; it is the short length of each one that plays in loops that feel like I’ve heard everything the soundtrack has to offer within a few minutes of each mode.
Overall, Runbow offers a colorful, challenging, fun, addictive & fantastically frustrating platformer that has me wanting to play it, even when my Switch is not around. You can’t do much better for the $14.99 price point than this indie darling stuffed to the brim with content. It is available now on the Nintendo e-shop.
It is also available on Wii U, 3DS, Xbox One, PC & PS4.