Like most older gamers, I’ve written off a lot of the runner genre in the past; saying that without any real control over the character, how could it be challenging? When you take a look at the genre and the mobile market, it’s easy to see how simple you can make this kind of design. However, the Runner series (based off of Bit.Trip.) has been trying to go further. With the latest game now out, I can honestly say that this is the most complicated runner I have played to date.
The story (narrated by Charles Martinet of Mario fame) involves Mr. and Mrs. Commander Video who must save Food Land from bad guys; by running, running, and running some more.
If you’ve played the previous Runner games, then the basics should be familiar to you. Each level has 100 gold bars to collect and one checkpoint. Mastering a level requires you to collect them, and complete dominance is about getting through it on a single go. Touch any obstacle and you’ll be sent back to the checkpoint or the start. Each obstacle in the game has a specific way to get around it; by sliding, jumping over it, or kicking right through it.
There are also multiple paths and hidden collectibles to go after. Even though you’re not leaving the game’s fixed path, you do have other options. New to Runner3 is the ability to choose a lane at specific splits in the road. The different paths play an important role in the extra content that Runner3 has up its sleeves.
Just getting through a stage will not get you far in Runner 3’s extra content. Every level you beat will unlock the “gem path” to do. The gem path is always harder and throws 25 gems in for you to collect; with the possibility of more secret collectibles.
Beyond that, gold pickups will unlock additional challenge levels, and I do mean challenge. These levels are some of the hardest examples of runner gameplay I have seen yet. You will be required to perform split second actions just to get through the levels, never minding the collectibles.
One of the most surprising aspects behind Runner3 is just how much actual control you have while going through a level. Even though your path and speed are fixed, deciding when to jump, double jump, air stomp, and more, gives a lot of flexibility. Completing the harder levels will require a lot of hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes.
Aesthetic unlockables include items that you can buy at the shop for gold and gems, and additional characters. New characters are now unlocked via “hero quests” that will have you hunting down special items throughout the worlds.
For fans of the “retro mode” seen in previous games, the developers have taken it up a notch this time around.
In previous Runner games, the retro mode was simply a runner with pixel graphics. This time around, the developers have essentially created a second game; complete with an old hand drawn animation style. The classic levels allow the player to move in any direction while hunting down coins and avoiding bad guys.
The retro gameplay has a great flow to it, thanks to the ability to infinitely dash. No pun intended, but this mode seems perfect for speedrunners to test their mettle within a runner title.
Runner3 takes the franchise and the entire genre into a new direction, but in doing so does add in some new frustration.
If you’ve played a runner before, then you know what you’re getting into in terms of basic gameplay and design. At that layer, Runner3 has all the pros and cons of a traditional title. Where it differs is in its attempt to take things further.
Early on, you’ll begin to see the new designs in the form of controlling vehicles, new enemies to avoid, and even changing the perspective multiple times. The camera in a surprising move becomes your worst enemy as you get further into the game.
Instead of sticking with the normal 2D sideways view of most runners, Runner3 starts out at a 3/4 isometric, and will change depending on the level. While this certainly adds style to the game, it causes a big problem with judging your character’s position to upcoming obstacles. There were plenty of times when I mistimed a move because it looked like I wasn’t at the obstacle yet.
Several areas feature you running directly at the camera; making it impossible to judge when to jump to avoid enemies or pick up items.
From an aesthetics point of view, the game is just overloaded with visual stimuli. Combined with the camera, and it was very easy to lose my character in a sea of visual effects. For most games that wouldn’t be a problem, but when we’re talking about a game that challenges players to complete levels perfectly, it can become frustrating.
Runner3 takes the genre and moves it forward, while making it really hard to go back to any previous games. If you’re looking for something that’s both lightweight, and challenging at the same time, check out Runner3.