If Mario Kart was a side scrolling 2D platformer, it would be Speed Runners. Smooth gameplay, intense speed, and hilarious shenanigans combine for a great experience. Here is our review.
Gotta Go Fast
Speed Runners is wild, simplistic fun, and I mean that in the best way. It’s a side scrolling 2D platformer where four colorful characters race against each other through a looping level. To win, your character has to run far enough ahead to make the other characters not visible on the screen. Smart jumping and swinging maneuvers combined with weapons and power ups can be the difference between winning and losing. Adding to the intensity of the race, the screen starts to get smaller the longer the race goes. This makes mistakes more costly and makes it easier to fall off the screen and lose.
This mechanic makes for tricky scenarios, especially in the more complex levels. It keeps a race from dragging on too long and adds a little sweat to the forehead. Each win is worth one point, and the first player to three points wins the match!
Welcome to New Rush City
This game is fairly easy to pick up, and it won’t take much time for you to be competitive. Jump into the practice menu and ease in with a run through the tutorial mode. Sprint through a race in the first level while control prompts are shown in the background. Here you will learn how to jump, boost, swing, and use power ups and weapons. Other modes available in the practice menu are Solo Run and Race Vs. Bots. A few runs through the tutorial will be more than enough to prepare you for the main story missions.
Hit the starting line and speed your way through Story Mode. The small comic book-like story is spread out across four chapters. In each chapter, you are essentially challenged to races by wacky characters like Moonraker, Cosmonaut Comrade, and Gil, a police officer in a shark suit. Each race win will reward you with XP. Level up to unlock new weapons, levels and playable characters. Finishing a chapter will also unlock a short comic about the character that challenged you during that chapter. Multiple difficulty levels add extra challenge and replay ability to this mode. Story mode is a blast and a great way to learn the ropes before moving on to online multiplayer.
Multiplayer is where Speed Runners truly shines. Going up against other players in online matches and racing your friends on the couch are the best ways to play this game. There are three ways to play online: Ranked, Quick Match and Custom Match. Ranked and Quick Match throw you into matchmaking against other players online while Custom Match lets you party up with your friends list and battle random players or one another with a party of four. Playing with three other friends on the same TV is easy, as the screen always displays the entire playing area and all characters, eliminating the need for split-screen.
Matchmaking was a little rough for me, personally. Finding a match can sometimes take several minutes and even then there is a chance of losing connection and getting kicked. The publishers, tinyBuild, have already acknowledged the issue and are working on a solution. Once I got into a match, however, I was never booted and things ran smoothly.
Give Me All The Things
There are plenty of extras to unlock in Speed Runners. Up to 7 characters can be unlocked by completing the story missions and earning XP. New comics, weapons and levels are also unlocked via story missions and earning XP. There are 15 additional characters available through DLC packs. Each pack is $2.99 and includes 5 unique characters and one Trail. There are three packs available along with an extra pack containing 15 Trails. Trails are a cosmetic item that adds a stream of color or particle effect that follows your character through the level. The price for the Trail Pack is also $2.99.
Speed Runners will be free if you are an Xbox Live Gold subscriber starting Thursday, June 1. That would make the price for the game and all the extra content around $12. Not a bad deal!
The Final Verdict
I’ve had a great time with Speed Runners. Its many modes will keep me coming back and challenging myself to get better, along with trying to unlock all of the game’s extra content. Playing with friends on the couch is guaranteed to bring loads of fun and laughs, even though online multiplayer was a little rough out of the gate. $12 for this game and all its DLC during the month of June is a great deal for what you get.
+ Smooth, precise game play – Online match making
+ Modes and content
+ Side by side couch multiplayer
Final Score 8/10