For many people, some of their earliest multiplayer gaming memories were that of racing games. Whether it was with their family or friends, through LAN, online or the now sadly dead splitscreen, racing games have had a quick rise to popularity which so far, still hasn’t gone away. Mario Kart, Need for Speed and Diddy Kong Racing are just a few examples in a genre that is nowhere near lacking. With so much competition, indie developers often shy away in fear that their game will be drowned in the flood of racers. Yet despite the odds being stacked against it, SpeedRunners still manages to not just be seen, but also manages to stand out as a pillar of innovation that an over-saturated market really needed.
Just by looking at the screenshot above, you can already see one of the main things that separates it from the crowd. Rather than racing in cars or some other form of vehicle; in SpeedRunners, you race on foot. Despite how underwhelming it may sound, this simple change shakes things up greatly. Cars are generally restricted to simple movement and their movement is quite simple. Having the ability to jump and wall jump opens up a more vertical style of racing with a lot more unpredictable twists and turns to keep the racing more frantic and tense. More mobility also gives you more control of your character, allowing you to perform actions such as sliding and grappling to dodge enemy projectiles and get ahead of your competitors by utilising shortcuts.
Another aspect of SpeedRunners that differs from the rest of the genre is how you win. Instead of simply trying to reach the finish line, the objective is to outrun your opponents until they fall so behind they can no longer be seen on the screen. At this point they are out until only one person remains as the speediest of demons. This is only made more tense by the screen progressively getting smaller and smaller once the first person is out making for some incredibly clutch moments. While it’s a neat concept, it still has its flaws. On some maps, where there are large drops, the frenetic sprint can be cut abruptly short by a player falling off the top of the screen, even if they’re relatively close to first place. Although it doesn’t happen often, it’s so unfair when it does happen that it kills the adrenaline rush brought on by such fast-paced racing.
An arsenal of weapons and items can be picked up while racing and be used to get ahead of the competition as well as break more friendships than Monopoly and just as much as Mario Kart. What makes the game fairer than the aforementioned Nintendo racing game however is that pretty much all of the items can be avoided and dodged with enough skill and quick-thinking. Boxes can be jumped over, missiles can be tricked into flying into walls and even the person who sent it and ice rays can be slid under and even turned into an advantage on slopes. Even the seemingly infallible golden hook can be dodged quite simply by stylishly slamming your body to the ground in a slide. There’s quite a learning curve, but SpeedRunners is more than fair.
SpeedRunners also has a unique, comic-book style feel to its graphics that take enough good away from the art style without just copying it to make some real eye candy. There are many characters you can choose to play as though the only difference between them is how they look. All of them look like they belong in some upbeat superhero comic on a shelf in a comic-book store. You’ll be sure to find at least one you like among the roster of gorilla doctors, men in chicken costumes and dog detectives. My personal favourite was Luc J’adore, a ladies man Mexican wrestler that always runs with a rose in his mouth. Now that’s style.
There is unfortunately, one prominent problem with the game in its current state. SpeedRunners was at the peak of its popularity around two years ago when several well-known Youtubers such as Pewdiepie-who has the most subscribed channel on Youtube-showcased the game on their channels. This led to a massive influx of new players in the game’s beta and for a while, it was one of the most played games on Steam. Unfortunately, after this large gain of players, the popularity of SpeedRunners has slowly declined and now, less than one thousand people play it daily. Because of this, it is mainly only veterans and pro players that remain making it an incredibly difficult multiplayer game to get into with a very harsh learning curve. You will lose a lot. That’s a fact. It’s not uncommon either to encounter the same people several times. Just the other night, when I was playing ranked games, I kept connecting to a match with two Advanced League players in despite being in the Beginners League. I disconnected and searched for another game and was connected once again to the same game. And again, and again and again. Around six times at which point I just decided to join anyway.
Not to say you shouldn’t buy the game; but for the love of god, if you really want to get into this game then I recommend playing it with a group of friends, otherwise you’re going to get really tired of getting owned all the time. Despite the fact its playerbase is now just a hollow husk of what it used to be, you can still get lots of fun out of SpeedRunners. The £10.99 price tag is a little steep but wait until it goes on sale and you won’t regret buying it. The frantic gameplay can keep you occupied for hours at a time as long as you can get into a decent game. It will more than satisfy your need for speed. After all, you gotta go fast!
- Fast-paced gameplay
- Colourful and unique comic art style
- Creative characters
- Lot’s of fun with friends
- A decent singleplayer campaign that introduces you to the mechanics
- No ‘cheap’ items like the blue shell from Mario Kart
- Steep price tag
- Playerbase is mostly just veterans making for a steep learning curve
- Some maps have places such as large vertical drops that can abruptly end a fun race.
Get the game here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/207140/