After originally releasing a few years back on the Wii U, Runbow has made a grand return to a Nintendo system with its new release on the Nintendo Switch. With the colour-twisting platformer’s focus on multiplayer fun, it feels quite fitting too – especially since the game started life as a Nintendo exclusive anyway. You’ll be glad to know that the years have been kind to Runbow though, with the game just as fun now as it was when it originally launched all those years ago.
Runbow sees you making your way through levels by running and jumping across platforms, all whilst ensuring you avoid hazards and beat up any enemies along the way. There’s a twist though: each level’s background periodically changes colour, causing any platform in the level of the same colour to disappear. It’s a clever little premise that forces twitch reactions from the player, especially since it’s never safe to stay in one spot for too long. It’s all very simple in design, but there’s an ingenuity to it that’ll keep you on edge throughout.
The single player mode of Runbow is a decent length and sends you through a variety of different levels, each of which is more challenging than the last and typically introduces new gameplay mechanics. Most of it boils down to simply running and jumping (and beating enemies up through the simple combat mechanics), though this doesn’t mean you’ll ever be able to switch off – you’ve always got to be ready for whatever the game throws at you next, be it an unexpected foe, a new hazard, or a simple change of colour.
You’re rated on your performance through a level, with medals awarded based on your score. It adds a sense of replayability to the game, especially for those who’re eager to prove they’re the best at Runbow, but I had enough fun just playing through the once.
One of the things I appreciated the most was the art of timing. As you play the game more and more, you begin to learn when the background colour is going to shift and how you can take advantage of it. It doesn’t always have to be a hindrance after all, and sometimes a quick change of colour can create as many new pathways as it takes away. Learning to time your manoeuvres with this change is imperative to success, whilst learning how the colour change really affects a level can make a difference in how many medals you can earn. It might all seem simple at first glance, but there’s actually a fair bit of depth to the game’s level design and figuring it all out is always incredibly satisfying.
Runbow’s single player is fun to get through, but there’s absolutely no denying that it is at its best when played in multiplayer. I played it with a group of friends and we were kept laughing throughout, whilst the underlying sense of competitiveness never disappeared thanks to how accessible the game is to play. It’s definitely a great title for local multiplayer showdowns.
You can play with up to eight players in local multiplayer across three different modes: ‘Arena’, ‘King of the Hill’ and ‘Run’. Arena plays like a deathmatch with players beating each other up and avoiding level hazards, King of the Hill sees players battling it out to claim a spot of contested land on a level, whilst Run is all about racing across the level to reach the finish line as quickly as possible.
Run is my favourite, not only because it cleverly takes advantage of Runbow’s gameplay mechanics but also because it’s so bloody hectic to play. Imagine seeing eight players racing across levels, all whilst avoiding hazards, hitting jumps, and carefully trying to plot their course whilst ensuring they don’t get tricked by the level’s ever-changing colour – believe me, it’s a lot of fun, especially when you all just so happen to be in the room together at the same time too.
You can play online if you prefer, though my experience with it hasn’t been perfect. Don’t get me wrong, when you get in a decent match it’s fun, but I suffered through not only a few network errors but also players quitting mid-game (sore losers!). Runbow is definitely a game that’s better played locally…
Whilst you’ve got the standard Runbow cast of colourful characters to play as, there are also plenty of guests from other recognisable indie titles that appear in the game. You’ve got the likes of Shantae, Shovel Knight, and Rusty from Steamworld Dig just to name a few, but plenty of other faces show up too. I won’t spoil them all here, but just know that they’re fun to unlock and add an extra ounce of charm to the whole experience.
Developer: 13AM Games
Publisher: Headup Games
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii U, PC