Blink and you can immediately become unstuck in Runbow, a fast and frantic party platformer from the kaleidoscopic minds at 13AM Games.
Unparalleled in its license to thrill, the colourful chaos that ensues is born out of the seemingly simplest of ideas and executed to near perfection. In an industry that continues to suffer a memory lapse whenever it tries to recall that local multiplayer exists, Runbow lets a party-popping nine players in on the action and revels in the resulting hilarity.
Keeping ahead of the competition is made far more difficult in Runbow’s world, with the background colour alternating on a continual rotation. That sees players repeatedly being challenged to re-evaluate the path that they have chosen – the next colour swipe seeing platforms and obstacles of the same colour removed, such unpredictable design often sending a frontrunner straight to the back of the pack.
The madness and competitive howls makes it the ideal candidate for larger gatherings and events, participants setting their sights on the prize armed with all manner of control inputs whether that be the Wii U GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Classic Controller or the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo. I don’t think that there is any expectation that the party planner would have all nine controllers, but that breadth of support should allow friends to ‘pad’ out the selection as needed. (Ahem.)
Such ease in approach carries to the controls themselves, which away from movement see players simply jump while attacking and taunting their opposition. It’s tapping into that simple pick up and play lure again, letting casual and hardcore compete against one another on a relatively even playing field – power-ups aiding this by granting super speed, stunning opponents or slowing time.
Needless to say Runbow is far more entertaining with as many players as you can cram around the same TV, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t packed with any content to tackle solo. The grid-based Adventure Mode presents a campaign of sorts, testing player skill across to put their skill to the test across a whopping 140 trials that will pit you against the clock – with Medals to earn along the way.
There’s a loose story in which Hue and Val race for glory to become Poster District’s biggest star, but their success is threatened by Satura’s destructive desire. Runbow’s monochromatic cast lack identity, and it alleviates such fact by recruiting a wide selection of Nindie icons from SteamWorld Dig’s Rusty, Shovel Knight and CommanderVideo.
Run, Arena and King of the Hill round out Runbow’s standard modes, but it is ColourMaster that is the standout. Runners are left to leap through stages as the Wii U GamePad wielder freely swaps the colour in any direction, while dragging attacks to catch players out – whether that be scrambling everyone’s controls with Confusion, sparking explosive blasts with Bomb, or using Greyscale to make everything temporarily black and white. The ColourMaster must destroy as many runners as possible, whereas the runners will score a point for everyone that reaches the end trophy.
On the other end of the spectrum is Runbow at its most relentless difficulty in the Bowhemoth mode, a near endless gauntlet of challenges that will see you boundlessly leap through the creature’s innards. This must be completed in one attempt, meaning that it no small feat for even the more accomplished players to tackle.
The contest can be taken online in Run, Arena and King of the Hill modes, but it’s no replacement for the irrepressible laughter that accompanies playing locally. Still, for those that can’t call on nearby friends it’s a welcome alternative instead of being an entire omission.
With more shade than a Dulux colour chart, Runbow is a multiplayer marvel and manages to run at great length with such a simple idea. With a roaringly sax-orientated soundtrack to boot, it easily ranks tall among the Nintendo eShop’s ‘Nindie’ darlings.
Version Tested: Wii U
Review copy provided by 13AM Games