Developer - Choice Provisions
Publisher - Choice Provisions
Platform - Steam, Nintendo Switch [version tested]
Price - £23.79 [eShop]
Genre - Rhythm platformer
One of the best games on the Wii U eShop was Bit.Trip Presents... Runner2: Future Legend Of Rhythm Alien, a rhythm platformer released by Gaijin Games in 2013 (and itself a sequel to 2010 Wii title Bit.Trip Runner). During gameplay the player creates the music with their actions - kicking targets and collecting trinkets sounds notes, for example, and collecting red plus signs adds layers to the backing track. Although difficult, it was a great little title, enhanced by Charles Martinet's magical madcap narration. Enter - Runner3!
The same rules apply: you play as CommanderVideo (or CommandgirlVideo) who's runnin' just as fast they can through all the tricks and traps a level has to offer. Collect gold bars to earn points, open tougher levels, and complete the music. Levels can devolve into memory tests - which I normally despise - but it seems to work here. Much like its predecessor, clicking with a level and getting to the end with the music fully ramped up is an absolute joy. The controls are simplified compared to its predecessor, so we're off to a stupendous start.
Runner2 (or FLORA, as I prefer to call it) had a full-to-bursting seventy levels and, having had about five years to work on the sequel, you'd expect the same or thereabouts in Runner3. The answer to that quasi-question is a resounding "No". There are thirty main levels, three of which are bosses (which are mostly straightforward, certainly more so than the proper levels). Finishing these will earn you the credits. If that has you tutting with disappointment, know this: an extra three worlds can be unlocked by collecting three VHS tapes. There's one in every world and collecting them unlocks Retro levels, which are very strange beasts indeed.
You have free control in a Retro level. No longer is CommandPersonVideo compelled to career crazily about the loopy levels, greedily grabbing gold... you can stop and smell the metaphorical roses for a spell. You can even turn left! Each Retro level features five special tokens which - yes! - can be used in the shop to obtain crazy costumes for our dashing duo. The twist? They're not very good. Your initial view in every Retro level is too close to the action - a fact which someone recognised, as standing still for a few moments zooms things out. The unchangeable music is poor, criminal in a game with so many terrific tracks. CommanderVideo - for he is the only playable character in a Retro level - also feels very stiff. That said, they do offer a different challenge and have some mileage - I just can't help but feel that the game would have been better for another world or two of auto-running action.
Speaking of what's gone wrong, the aesthetic has changed for the downright bizarre. Take a look at some of the screenshots in this review: they look weird as stills, and motion doesn't improve matters. There is also the occasional twitch and judder, with some elements sometimes going missing completely from levels after several repeat attempts. And the loading times! Hopefully a patch can streamline things, because there are three separate and fairly lengthy loading screens before you can get into any level of the game.
This might not seem like a very positive review and, if I'm honest, Runner3 isn't quite as good as its predecessor. However, huge dollops of its unique magic have made it into this slightly stilted sequel. The new double jump is a revelation and there's certainly more to do. Aside from the aforementioned Retro levels, you can complete special quests to unlock extra characters, explore harder remixes of levels to collect gems. Compromising the core campaign has opened out a map of possibilities that Choice Provisions have plundered purposefully.
Final Verdict: What a rush! The incredible bliss of perfecting a level in Runner3 is almost incomparable on the Nintendo Switch. Some unfortunate design decisions stop it from hitting the heights of its predecessor but there's still an awful lot to appreciate here. If you've nothing else on, put on your running shoes and get going.