Multiplayer games such as Worms, Mario Kart, Street Fighter and Tetris all contain a timeless underpinning simplicity to their mechanics that has been, and will be, played for many years to come. The turn-based dramas of Worms, for example, can result in some of the most hilarious outcomes from simply fumbling a Banana Bomb with butterfingers. While the leader of the pack in Mario Kart can instantly be sent spinning into the dumps mere meters before the finish line thanks to a perfectly timed Green Shell.
The DoubleDutch Games-developed SpeedRunners also has that certain special competitive and dramatic spark to it. One where up to four friends sharing a couch can giggle, growl, shout and swear violently at each other as that burning desire to win rapidly begins to consume the soul. The reason for this is mainly down to how easy the game is to get to grips with. Well, at least, that’s how it seems at first until you soon begin to clock onto ways to go that little bit faster or learn to take that corner more sharply.
SpeedRunners is essentially both a racing game and a platformer in one. Yet, it tends to have more in common with ’90s classic Micro Machines than it does Super Mario Bros. This is mainly because you’re not racing to be first to the finish line or hopping onto a flagpole standing tall at the end of a linear map. What you’re trying to do is outrun your opponents off the screen in a first-to-three point matchup so you can flip those fingers in your opponents’ face like Ali G listening to a belting Jungle track.
As for the healthy amount of stages themselves, the simple black borders that ride out each level in an endless loop may seem basic to look at. However, with every nook and cranny supplying some form of relevance to its course, it soon becomes evident that each circuit is crafted to be replayed and mastered. The idea is to keep the momentum of your character as close to top speed as possible by swinging off white ceilings, boosting, double-jumping and sliding. Combining these actions by landing or hitting ceiling slopes at the correct angles will, in consequence, keep the speed flowing at top peak.
The best example of just how the stages can ultimately work in the player’s favour is by watching YouTube videos of professional speedrunners in action. Oftentimes these guys can zip through a course with their favoured ’70s themed superhero or mascot without barely even touching the floor. While the average Joe probably won’t quite hit that sort of pace without hours and weeks of practice, it’s good to see how deep the rabbit hole can potentially go. Thankfully, loading screens before a match do usually provide handy tips on improving your pace and dodging attacks. Which does come in handy, especially when introducing new friends to the game.
Speaking of attacks, SpeedRunners allows the player to sabotage their opponents by using collectable power-ups placed around the map. This element to the game really pulls the action closer towards Mario Kart territory in a wonderful yet infuriating way. The good news is that weapons like the Golden Hook that drags opponents back behind the attacker, or the Freeze Ray that does exactly what it says on the tin can be dodged with a well-timed slide both on the ground or in the air. Although usually, the player will have to read an oncoming attack rather than react to it. Things do begin to get even tenser when the timer reaches zero as the screen of the action begins to shrink and the music starts to speed up. It is at this point where keeping your cool and remembering the layout of the stage quickly become vital ingredients for success.
When all combined together, you have yourself an incredibly addictive game that really oils up those memory muscles and reaction skills. Players and rivals begin to improve with every round, taking care not to stumble over inconveniently placed wooden crates or remembering to latch on to those white ceilings that are begging to be swung from. Constantly looping around a course in Time Trials alone and trying to beat the ghost of your last best performance is as addictive as any good racing game. On top of that, the online netcode happens to be rather good in my experience, making that pool of competition wider and providing more reason to improve.
There is a more expensive Deluxe version of the game available that includes all available downloadable content. However, unless you’re into owning all the skins and fancy speed trails tailing off your character, there really is no reason to pay more than the standard version. Also, despite having the handy ability to download user-created stages, there’s no way to actually create stages of your own on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. I assume that it’s a PC feature that just hasn’t seemed to have sailed its way over.
What may inconvenience some is that stages, items and characters have to be unlocked by simply playing the game, levelling up and beating the Story mode. While it doesn’t take long to unlock most of the important things, this still may be an issue if you’re the type who wants everything available to you out of the box.
One fixable issue I did come across though, was how the default action for taunt is configured to a Left Stick click. Oftentimes I would get confused and annoyed in understanding why my character has decided to suddenly stop and randomly limber up in the middle of a match. Thankfully, buttons can be assigned to wherever you wish them to be. So, if the same issue does happen to you remember, for once, it’s probably not a Joy-Con fault. Just fat heavy thumbs.
As a whole, SpeedRunners happens to be yet another winning party game for the most convenient console on the market. The simple yet well-thought-out structure of the gameplay certainly makes an impulse purchase easy when expecting friends over. It may seem like a long time coming for those who have been pining for a portable version of SpeedRunners to hit the Nintendo eShop. Well, it’s here now and, three years later, players can finally compete wherever they go.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by tinyBuild