Reviews

Runbow

Boy, 'm' is a hard letter to run with. Fortunately, the running in Runbow is second nature to its characters. They jog, jump and joust [Stop it - Ed] over a series of small levels with the goal of reaching the trophy at the end. Attempting to stop you - beyond the standard platforming tricks and traps - is the background, which constantly changes colour: any platforms that match the current colour of said background cease to exist until the colour changes again. On top of that, there could be up to eight other players trying to nab that trophy first - multicoloured multiplayer mayhem indeed! Planning your next move on the fly as various others try to punch or smash you out of your stride is incredibly good fun.

For those of us of a more single player persuasion there are two main modes: Adventure Mode and The Bowhemoth. The former consists of over a hundred and forty levels, four of which feature face-offs against storyline villain Satura. The Bowhemoth ramps the difficulty up to the top of the scale and then breaks the lever: a series of challenge rooms with no save point, it had me ready to smash my GamePad into atoms at several points. There's an achievement for finishing it in under 20 minutes or fewer than 10 deaths - my current count is 100 minutes and 357 deaths. It's hard.

 "Butt stomping into the lava is a bold strategy, Cotton - let's see if it pays off for him."

"Butt stomping into the lava is a bold strategy, Cotton - let's see if it pays off for him."

Runbow has clearly been designed with multiple players in mind, though, and as soon as someone else picks up a controller - whether they are in the room with you, or playing via the magic of the Internet - an already good game takes several confident strides into 'must have' territory. I've played with two, three and four players on screen and the vibe is like Smash Bros. - organised chaos, and I'm not sure about the organisation. Power-ups litter the course and serve to increase the unfolding madness with various horrifying/beneficial effects. Our favourite is the position-swapper, which means that as long as you're still on-screen, you're still in the game.

It's just a joy, even in single-player. The music is infectious, the aesthetic beautiful and the one-more-go factor higher than an astronaut's kite. The unlocks come thick and fast; playing through the Adventure Mode gifts you with art and a few extra costumes as you collect medals by completing levels to strict time limits. Other feats allow you to play as characters from across the indie spectrum, including Shovel Knight, Juan and Tostada (from Guacamelee!), SteamWorld Dig's Rusty and Unity Chan, who I had to look up on Google. They have none of their signature moves - although a little of their spirit is captured in their taunts - but are a very welcome addition nonetheless, not least for bragging rights.

 Lumberjacks, pirates, mummies... oh my! Oh, and, enough lava to fill all of Bowser's castles. Yikes. 

Lumberjacks, pirates, mummies... oh my! Oh, and, enough lava to fill all of Bowser's castles. Yikes. 

Be warned, though: if you're the sort of person who throws controllers in frustration, fit your gaming room with padded walls. Runbow is brutal. Every time you die (or every time everyone dies in a multiplayer game) a skull appears with a zinging one-liner, like "Your other right" or "Try jumping". It feels like there are around a hundred of these, and they're all needed as a bit of light relief following your thirty-seventh straight agonising death. It's not helped by the fact that the sideways dash and the jump dash have very similar inputs, meaning you often shoot diagonally upwards to a grisly spiky death.

Really, though, that's just nitpicking. We should also mention that the Satura fights in Adventure Mode are a slight letdown and it could have used a handful more ideas for level types... but they've got to leave us wanting more for Runbow 2 (please note: totally unconfirmed) right? Right. Given that it's 13AM Games's first release, they have struck gold very early on.

Final Verdict: Long story short - if you're a Wii U owner with a lot of gaming friends, get Runbow. If you're a Wii U owner who's after a platformer with a sadistic streak, get Runbow. If you're a Wii U owner who doesn't fit the above criteria, think carefully for a while, mull it over, weigh it up against the size of your backlog... and get Runbow. If you're not a Wii U owner, know that Runbow has the kind of multiplayer magic that doesn't come around too often. A belter of a game.

9/10