Good ol’ Microsoft has recently graced us with a brand new 2017 game as one of June’s free Games with Gold offerings, the indie darling Speedrunners. I knew very little about it before picking it up, only knowing it was an enhanced version of an older browser game, and that its PC version is actually considered an eSport.
If anything, I have to congratulate Speedrunners for its originality. Speedrunners is a weird hybrid of a racing game and a 2D platformer. Think of it as a mix between Sonic R, Super Mario Bros and some elements of, well, playing tag in elementary school.
The gameplay is pretty simple. You and three other racers are placed on a sidescrolling stage that loops endlessly. Your goal is to outrun them, as there are no laps or no finish line. Just simply run faster than anyone else, leaving them behind to the point they aren’t even shown anymore onscreen. Rinse and repeat with all three players and you win the round. Win the round three times, and you win the race. Pretty simple, I’d say.
To add a little more excitement to the mayhem, Speedrunners features powerups, just like in Mario Kart. There are homing missiles, grappling hooks, trap boxes, and many more, therefore you shouldn’t worry if you’re last placed, as an item can easily help you catch up to the opposition. The same can be said for your opponents, so positions can change quickly, if you know just a little bit of the core gameplay and how to properly use the items and the other elements scattered around the stages, such as turbo boosts and jump pads. Finally, remember one thing: your neat little gadgets can easily hurt your enemies, but you’re not immune to your own weaponry.
Speedrunners isn’t a flawless game, though, with some of its main gripes coming from its actual game design. First of all, the visuals are a bit of a nuisance, not only because of their severe simplicity, but also due to the fact that your character is too small onscreen.
Second, there are a few issues with the gameplay, especially when you are in the lead. In order to beat your opponents, you need to be on the edge of the screen and make them disappear from your sight, as I previously mentioned, but in order to do so, you have very little visibility to see what’s coming in front of you, and that usually results in you falling in many traps and not being able to precisely time your jumps. This is incredibly hurtful to newcomers, above all. Thankfully there are tutorials and a quite neat campaign in which you can practice with bots before brawling online, but that’s still quite a hindrance.
Speedrunners is indeed very simplistic, which can be bad in some aspects, and very good in others. It does honor its origins by still looking like a Flash game and its soundtrack isn’t anything special but its simple core mechanics are by far its most positive aspects. It’s very easy to pick up and play, but you most likely won’t bother playing it for more than 20 to 30 minutes in a row. That said, it was a nice and original concept to arrive on a console, and a much better brand new freebie than Sony’s disastrous Drawn to Death released a couple of months ago.
Also available on: PC