Sep 15, 2011

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Speedrunner HD Review

Speedrunner HD Review

Speedrunner HD initially reminded me of two of my favorite iOS titles.  Blending the quick, almost free-running style of Canabalt with the precise platforming grappling hook of the Hook Champ series looked to be fun, and trailers only peaked my interest.  Out of the few titles I saw in the Indie Game Summer Uprising, this was easily one of my most anticipated.  Did Speedrunner HD deliver or was I sadly disappointed?

Speedrunner HD was originally released as a browser game and was later ported to the indie marketplace.  I personally saw a lot of Canabalt in the previews, but upon further discovery, I saw a lot of N+ channeled in this indie title.  Essentially you must race to your goal while jumping, sliding, boosting, and swinging your way across pits, spikes and all sorts of traps.  The evil Mad Bomber has planted explosives that will surely go off, and the only one quick enough to save them is our hero Speedrunner.  If the story sounds like a cheesy comic book, it’s completely intentional, with cutscenes displayed in comic panels and the overall tone being similar to heroes of yesteryear.  The story is nothing special, but the gameplay more then makes up for it, with fluid animations, precise controls, and a nice mix of well designed levels.  Each level has multiple paths and bonus pickups that are optional but perfect for completionists.  Faster times award better scores and higher medals, though the lack of online leaderboards is kind of disappointing.

Upon completing a few levels, you’ll engage in a “boss level,” which is more or less the same as the other ones you tackled, except now you’re being chased down by a huge boss.  The Mad Bomber chases you down with screen-filling monstrosities and one-touch sends our hero to his doom.  Though not even remotely as hard as similar bosses found in Super Meat Boy, the effort in putting these bosses in the game at all is appreciated and the change (though slight) is enjoyable.

The single-player campaign, as stated above, is fun, fast-paced, and fluid throughout.  Each level is put together nicely, and the control is spot-on from start to finish.  Sadly, that finish comes incredibly quickly, with only a handful of levels at your disposal.  Completing all that the single-player has to offer will take most gamers a few hours, while more exceptional gamers can do so in a fraction of the time.  Although the length can be debated as to whether it’s long enough, the content provided is pretty substantial given the cheap price and limited resources.  Along with the campaign missions, there are about a half-dozen bonus levels that really test the skills you’ve learned, a neat little bonus code players can earn and enter through the games website, and nicely drawn scenes explaining the games story.  It’s easy to see that the developers put a lot of time and effort into creating Speedrunner, and though the single player is short, it’s fun from beginning to end.

Even though the single player is more than competent, Speedrunner HD truly shines in its multiplayer.  Through five levels, up to four players can engage in some of the most fun competitive multiplayer I’ve seen in awhile.  Each player controls one of four different colored Speedrunners as they race through stages swinging, sliding, and running in an effort to force another player off screen.  Leaving another player in the dust, and forcing them off screen results in their losing a life, and your gaining one (if your lives aren’t maxed out).  The developers have described their multiplayer races as a 2D platforming Mario Kart, and though it may seem strange, the description actually fits quite nicely.

Each level constantly loops around itself and obviously the key is to outrun your opponents, but the similarities make more sense when power-ups are introduced.  These power-ups consist of missiles, a grappling hook to stop your opponent in his tracks while pulling yourself to his position, and even a star-styled ultra-power-up that grants the user super speed and invincibility.  Also included are turbo pickups which, when used correctly, can be triggered to further the lead you have or catch up to your opponents when you’re lagging.  As with the single-player levels, each of the five levels in multiplayer are varied, and are actually better designed in my opinion.  Each level has multiple paths with some shortcuts placed perfectly to give players opportunities to pull ahead.  Though these shortcuts are present, one mistake could cost you a life, and some may not feel the risk is worth it.  Still, the game is simple enough for gamers with basic platforming skills to pick up, and my friends and I easily spent hours playing through each level in some very competitive matches.

Although the game is incredibly fun, it isn’t without its flaws.  I enjoyed my time with the single-player levels, but their short length may not warrant a purchase for some.  Some may not even feel that it’s worth it given that the levels are readily available for free online.  Also, while the multiplayer is incredibly fun and addicting, there are a couple bugs that need ironing out in order for the game to play smoother.  At times when someone was falling off screen, the game ended up glitching, and instead of spawning all the players at an even start point, the player unfortunately had all of his lives depleted.  Furthermore, some of the power-ups at times are unresponsive, and when players fall on spikes and should instantly die, sometimes their character just remains suspended until either someone else gets eliminated or the remaining players force him offscreen.  Throw in the fact that multiplayer is limited to local options only, and this may not be the game for you.

Speedrunner HD is definitely one of the best indie games I’ve downloaded in awhile.  The controls are fluid, the animation is nice, and above all, the multiplayer is a blast.  Though some may have an issue with the lack of online support, gathering three friends and playing locally provided some very nostalgic fun reminiscent of old N64 parties.  If you’re the type of gamer that is limits their social gaming interaction through an internet provider, then I’d definitely pass on Speedrunner HD.  But if you’re like me and you’ve got some friends that are willing to gather at your place, Speedrunner HD will provide you with hours of fun.  Though not perfect, at $3, it’s easily worth a purchase.

Speedrunner HD
Platform: Xbox Live Indie Games
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 08/29/11
Developer: Doubledutch Games
Community Ratings: Violence: 0/3 Sex: 0/3
MSRP: 240MSP ($3)