Speedrunners is a nearly perfect game for what it is. A simple 2D foot race, that with practice can become a hyper fast, adrenaline pumping whirlwind of perfectly timed swings and dashes. It brought me back to my childhood and made me wish I had hours upon hours to spend becoming proficient at its “hard to master” gameplay. All the characters are ridiculously imaginative, and they add a ton of charm to a gameplay-centric experience that’s guaranteed to win your respect. A few questionable choices and repetitive music aside, this is honestly a game you’re guaranteed to find enjoyment in- once you win a few races of course.
WHAT WE LIKED º Racing is nothing less than breakneck, with well-balanced attacks
º Maps are engineered to reward fast thinking and even faster digits.
º The characters are so interesting and feature fantastic animations.
WHAT WE DISLIKED
º Speedrunner’s lack of any kind of storyline was very disappointing.
º The music, while really fitting, can become repetitive very quickly.
º A few questionable decisions, but they’re pretty debatable.
When I met with tinyBuild at E3 of last year, I was surprised to find their small room was filled with the color orange; chairs, curtains, and party supplies. It was all orange. When I asked the obvious question any first-year reporter would ask, they gave me the easier answer I ever had to understand from a developer; they were looking for something fun and memorable. After I got done checking out Speedrunners along with their other games No Time To Explain, Punch Club and Party Hard, I realized their decorations matched the games they help release.
Speedrunners is a fantastic game, but I’m sure you’re already aware of that. It’s been in early access long enough for most observant gamers to assess how expertly paced the developers at DoubleDutch have made their on-foot racing game. It’s been over a year since Rahman Telliam (miss ya buddy) wrote his preview on the game when it first hit Steam, and the game has made some real progress in that time. Guess it’s on me to tell you all why you should go out and pick this multiplayer gem up right now.
First things first- the breakneck gameplay is without a doubt the best I’ve played since Mario Kart 8. It’s pure competitive racing at its finest, and a game that truly rewards the diligent and hardcore players with consistent skill growth. While it’s easy to pick up and play, you’ll eventually play someone who understands the game far more than you do- and you’ll desperately want to be as fast as they are.
It’s normally hard to explain why a racing game works while another doesn’t, but when it comes to Speedrunners, I can tell you what makes it work so well; a brilliant blend of precise controls and expert level design. Running feels fluid and realistic, where if you run in a new direction, your character will ramp up to their standard sprinting speed- so hitting the ground running and ensuring thoughtful landings are important. Not that you’ll want to land- the game encourages constant swinging, sliding and wall jumping in order to maximize your velocity as you fly through the maps. The levels are designed to test your ability to overcome risks in order to nail the maps’ many shortcuts- and when it works, you have no idea how good it all feels.
Of course, not everyone will be able to fly through the map the first time they pick it up; trust me, I was getting thoroughly stomped in my first day. Thankfully, the developers have set up some equalizers in the form of weapons and environmental traps. As you run through the stage, you’ll find paths with doors and adjacent switch, and if you run over one of these levers you’ll block off other paths, hopefully in one of your opponents faces. Nailing a complicated swing-jump-swing maneuver into a higher passage, and then cutting it off as someone flies into a now closed door is amazingly satisfying. If I had one complaint about the levels, it would be that I don’t care for the spikes- they feel unnecessary, and ultimately really cheap whenever you or an opponent falls prey to their instant death.
Not to use the Big N’s flagship racer in another example, but like Mario Kart, the game has pickups that give you certain items to use on your enemies. There’s only a few, but the simplicity of these items is what makes them feel so balanced and yet stressful. You can drop crates or a remote controlled bomb to trip up your opponents, throw out a pulse that slows down a radial area, or shoot a heat-seeking missile or an ice beam that’ll freeze your opponents into a block of ice. While all of these weapons aren’t guaranteed to hit, when they do, it only causes your enemies to stumble- but those trip-ups are detrimental to the runner. Then, of course, there’s the golden claw- which pulls your opponent to where you were, while slingshotting you ahead to where they were- and it can be a game changer for either side.
The way that you lose a match is to drop off the edge of the frame, and when the first one falls, the screen suddenly starts to get smaller and smaller. This really separates the wheat from the chaff, where you’ll get into some spectacular dogfights between equally talented sprinters. The camera pulls in closer and those who remember the fastest lines and avoids the levels strategically placed boxes and obstacles will pull ahead for the win. Each victory feels so rewarding when you finally break free from the competition and leave them in your foot-flavored dust.
The community, at least the ones I played with, all seem really friendly. I noticed players being sportsmanlike, giving lesser experienced opponents a fighting chance as the walls caved in. To be honest, I wasn’t very good starting out, and to be doubly honest, I’m still not. But early on, I had a professional player run me through some tips in the convenient and always active chat menu. Like someone who’s attempting to get you into CrossFit, he ran with me, slowing his pace when I lost a step but kept it challenging enough for me to keep pushing. These are the kind of gamers I like- ones that set aside the ego because they truly respect the game they’re playing. Hopefully, when the full game releases, you’ll see more people buying in and filling out these skill levels a little more.
One area of disappointment is the lack of storyline. I would’ve loved to have seen some kind of narrative outside of the game’s basic setup of “heroes running really fast.” Because of this, I won’t add it to my score. I will say however that because I like the characters so much, I really wish that the game had something to help introduce players to our champions and gameplay in a non-competitive experience.
The game’s artwork is absolutely amazing. Not just in character design, but in their animations. Everyone runs with a unique sense of identity, and the designers understand the importance of squash and stretch. Some lean into their robotic run while others avian-themed heroes trot with flapping arms. Some powerslide as if they’re pushing onto first base while others lounge out with their hand on their chin. Every time you win a race, your character celebrates in a beautiful, almost rotoscoped animation. This adds so much diversity and style to an experience that could’ve easily phoned in this department.
If I had one major disappointment however, it would be the game’s music. While the track that you hear in the trailer really sounds like something from a Saturday morning cartoon about vigilantes taking on baddies- it plays, constantly. Over and over again. With every level having its own unique and thoughtful approach, I would’ve loved to have seen some variety in the music as well.
This gripe is amazingly the only real blemish to an otherwise fantastic racer. It nails almost everything great about party games, and will surely be a go-to experience for me, along the likes of Rocket League, Smash Brothers, and Nidhogg. Speedrunners is without a doubt one of the best games I’ve played this year, has one of the friendliest and welcoming communities, and I can’t recommend it enough if there’s one paragraph in this review that peeked your interest. Hands down, this is a game that everyone can relate to and have fun with, and like a room filled with orange- you’ll never forget it.