You know that annoying feeling you get when you’re playing a co-op game that forces all the players to stay on the same screen? To the point that you can barely see your character because the screen is so far zoomed out or where your character is away from the main group and is nearly cut off the screen as a result? Well, someone decided to make a game about it. SpeedRunners is a 2-D superhero-themed racing platformer with the objective of being the only player that isn’t forced off the screen.
A race starts off with 2-4 players on the screen. The screen will then begin moving in the direction of the race. If one of the characters reaches the edge of the screen corresponding to the race (for example, if the screen is moving to the right and one of the characters reaches the right edge of the screen) then the screen will move to catch up with this player. Any players who are unable to stay on the screen are eliminated for the rest of the round and are forced to spectate. Once there is only one player left standing, that player gets a point, the next round starts, and the race resumes from where that player got the point. For example, if a player got a point in the middle of the map, then the race will resume in the middle of the map. The first player to get 3 points is declared the winner.
Every character has the ability to run, boost, grapple, wall-jump, and pick up items—actually, aside from physical appearance and victory animation, there is no difference between the different characters. Most of the items are themed after weapons a gadget superhero—such as Batman—would use. There are freeze rays, shockwaves, and fireballs (that behave like bowling balls) to name a few. There is no life meter, although being hit by one of these items can stun you or slow you down. While it might seem like a good idea to use an item the second you can get a shot in, I would recommend patience. For example, if you use the ice ray to freeze someone, they can still slide—something that could make the ray ineffective at stopping someone during a downhill portion of the race.
As if all this weren’t enough, if a race goes on long enough or one of the players is knocked out of bounds, the screen—and the boundaries you need to stay within—will begin shrinking. While the most likely reason for this is to prevent a scenario where 2 players are both able to stay on the screen for long periods of time while the other 1-2 players have to spectate, I found this to be a very enjoyable mechanic. When this begins to happen, the music changes to a higher tension and the part of the screen that is out of boundaries glows red, often prompting more desperate tactics to stay in the race.
There is a story mode and practice mode that allow you to play with computer-controlled bots. Additionally, you can add bots to a private or local match. As for online matchmaking, the option ‘quick match’ looks for new games as well as games in progress that only have 2 or 3 players. If it has you join a game in progress (which happened to me most of the time) the game will make you spectate until one of the players scores a point before placing you in the game. During an online match, I sometimes had trouble maintaining a connection, although whether this was due to the game or problems with my own Internet connection, I can’t say.
Overall, I enjoyed this game a great deal. It definitely lives up to the description of a ‘cut-throat racing game’ and is rather good at keeping to the theme of a race between super-powered characters. As such, I think a fair rating would be 9/10.
Here is the SpeedRunners Xbox One Launch Trailer:
SpeedRunners is available for Xbox One and PC on Steam.