Thursday, September 3, 2015

Multicolored Running Craziness: Runbow Review

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On your mark...get set....


Cartoonish, colorful characters race across an ever changing technicolor landscape running, leaping, and occasionally smacking each other into traps, pits, and various obstacles--on a quest for glory, trophies, and the fastest time possible.  13AM Games leaps into the game scene with a "colorful" entry that boasts a wide variety of characters, modes, and challenges.  So, does the game shine as brightly as the colors within?  Or does the end result leave you wishing for a wold of black and white?


There's a bit of a learning curve involved with some of the controls for Runbow.  Not to say that they are difficult to master or that there's too much going on; just that with all the action on screen in the multiplayer mode you can lose what button you pressed last and end up dead before you realize it.  Aside from that it controls tightly enough, which is exactly what you need in a game where dying over and over is to be expected.

Graphics and Style:

For a game where the characters are various hues of one color and have a certain paper-puppet quality to them; Runbow feels like there's more going on in terms of style and graphics.  The sharp angles and lack of curved surfaces make the whole thing like a Tim Burton design--but with colors of the rainbow rather than the typical black, white, and gray of a Burton film.  The simplicity not only lends a unique look, but I'd wager it's what helps the animation flow smoothly in multiplayer.  The "guest" runners that appear (such as Commander Video and Shovel Knight for starters) are also adapted to the style of the game and are pleasant to look at.  The graphics are crisp and as I mentioned before, moved smoothly even with 8 players.  I think this is pretty impressive for an indie game.

Music and Sound:


The jumps and punches in Runbow have a nice, bright sound to them, the "poof" type noise when you die don't reach the level of aggravation you might expect from a game that allows numerous deaths.  They are pleasant to hear and do the job they need to do.  Even the power ups are nice to hear.


Dan Rodrigues deserves credit for giving Runbow a jazzy and energetic soundtrack whose pace never feels frenetic but hits the right tone every time.  From the bombastic trumpets and heavy drums of Behemoth mode to the fast paced orchestral Latin and jazz fusion of Adventure mode--the soundtrack never disappoints. You truly get that big band feel. I like a game with a simple visual style and an orchestral soundtrack.  I've said this before about other games, but really, a blend of simple visuals and complex music gives a game sense of weight.  You often see games with simpler graphics try to imitate 8 bit or 16 bit music with varying degrees of success.  Bringing an orchestral sound almost never fails to impress.  It's well worth your time to download the soundtrack as the composer Rodrigues did such an excellent job making the job unique and a real joy to hear.


You and your opponents race across a technicolor landscape in mad dash to see who can reach the trophy at the level's end first.  Each level consists of various pits and traps which players can avoid by making use of single color platforms; however, the real challenge doesn't come in merely avoiding falling to your doom and getting to the trophy first.  During the race, the single color background constantly gets replaced by new colors whooshing across; adding and subtracting platforms of similar color.  Standing on a yellow platform above spikes and see yellow coming?  Better move fast to the blue platform above the pit, but don't linger too long because a wave of blue is on the horizon.  This constant change of color forces you to think fast, jump accurately, and relentlessly move forward.  Despite the need to continually move, the pacing never gets too frantic, and there are plenty of power ups and level variation to keep you playing for hours.  It's really impressive playing online as there was virtually no slow down, even when you have a full compliment of 8 players and I feel for a smaller company this is quite an accomplishment.  I've played other online multiplayer games produced by big companies that didn't have the smoothness that Runbow had.

Not in the mood to play with others nearby or online?  Can't scrape together enough friends to make for an interesting race?  Not a problem as the game offers a nice Adventure/Story mode that makes nice use of simple cut scenes, or the Behemoth mode where you move along inside the belly of a beast, progressing as far and fast as you can with no saves.

The only real fault I find with the game comes from something that's meant as a feature.  Whether you play local or online multiplayer there are times gameplay can get a bit confusing.  So much happens at once on screen that you can easily lose your character in the melee.  It takes a bit of getting used to all the action on screen.  When you do grow accostomed to it though, it makes for some really exciting gameplay.

Final Thoughts:

There's a richness to Runbow that I deeply appreciate.  The game offers so much in terms of unlockable characters, game modes, and options--it feels like a game that could have easily gotten a physical release and deserves one at some point in the future.  Oftentimes with a game that offers multiplayer but is independent or not a full-blown AAA title, you can see the game having a fairly short lifespan when it comes to players doing interaction online.  I hope this isn't the case for Runbow.   Runbow by 13AM Games takes the platform genre, tosses in a dash of runner, and the end result is a pleasant and challenging twist in a world of ever-changing color palettes.


Graphics/Visual Style: 10/10
Music/Sound: 10/10
Control and Gameplay: 9/10

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