The original Runbow came out on a lot of platforms in 2015, and has subsequently been put on even more platforms since then. And on July 3rd, the game will arrive on Nintendo Switch and PS4. I had the honor of playing it on the Switch, and I must say, that while I don’t approve of how its modes are balanced in certain regards, whether you play alone or with friends, you’re likely going to have fun.
I’ll admit that my playing of Runbow was a bit limited due to its review copy status. For example, I couldn’t play with friends nor hook up with other people online (I tried for the record, no one joined though, which is ok). However, that didn’t stop me from getting to experience the depth and fun that the game had to offer. For it’s technically multiple genres in one. For not only is it a platforming adventure title, it’s a party battle game too.
The Adventure Mode is where I’ll focus most of my review on because that’s where I spent the majority of my time. I must say that this was one of the most satisfying platforming experiences I’ve had in a while once I figured everything out. The game plays like a standard platformer in many regards. You have to just on things to advance through the levels, you need to dodge hazards and enemies, and sometimes you have to fight things. But, the real fun of Runbow is the colors that springs to life in the background. For every few seconds, a new “wave” of color will take over the background. So, for example, if you’re trying to jump on a platform that is the color orange, and the background changes to orange, said platform will disappear.
This simple, yet special, changeup makes Runbow even more fun to play. Because now, it’s not just a simple platforming game, it’s one that forces you to pay attention to the foreground and the background in order to survive. And trust me, you will die a lot in the Adventure Mode.
Another interesting thing about this mode is the story. For in a world full of color, what else could be the villain save for a colorless person? In this case, a female villain who has grown tired of the very colorful cast of characters you can play as having fun, and to stop her, you must beat 100 very different levels of content, including beating her boss battles of sorts. You might think that the color changing mechanic would wear out after a few levels. But honestly…it doesn’t. In fact, I was amazed by the amount of creativity that was put into each and every level, and I haven’t been able to beat them all just yet.
There are ones that test your timing, there are ones where you have to defeat enemies, there are ones that have you escaping lava as the platforms appear and disappear, and it goes on and on. There’s a lot of diversity here, and it really shows off the skills of the level designers. Which is another thing to appreciate, unlike games like Mario or DK, you don’t have to do the levels in a certain order. Instead, you beat one level on a gridded out map, and then, the levels connected to it on the grid open up. Plus, the colors of the level tiles let you know how difficult things are going to be. There’s Green for relatively simple, Yellow for challenging, and Red for really hard. So be wary when you get to those.
If you want to stick with singleplayer fun, there’s a mode where your “goal” is swallowed up by a creature, and you have to go get it…in one sitting. No, I don’t mean lives wise, that would be too punishing. But, there is no saving in this mode. So it’s one that’s for the dedicated for sure.
As for the multiplayer modes, I didn’t get to try them, but, I know what they were about. There are ones that feature races, there are those that cause you to fight other players, and so on and so forth. All the characters have the same moves, so it’s all about skill and how you use them. Which makes it very fair. There’s a wide array of characters you can use as well. I found out that Shantae was in the game, so I decided to play as her.
All that being said, there are some big faults with the game. First off, it’s clear that even though there are several singleplayer modes, Runbow is meant to be played with friends. Which is fine, unless you can’t find anyone to play with like I was. The menus are even stacked to show multiplayer modes first and singleplayer modes second.
Then, there’s the fact that there is not tutorial in the game. I had no idea how to control Shantae when I played her. And moreso, the first level of Adventure Mode didn’t give me any clues on how to progress, so I spent a few minutes trying to do what I felt they wanted me to until I figured out it was impossible and tried something else…only to find out that was the intent all along.
It is a bit frustrating, and some of the levels in Runbow are REALLY hard, so you will feel the urge to rage quite at times. But, if you’re willing to tough it out, and wait for friends to get it so that you can have some real fun, I think you might just enjoy Runbow.