In a growing landscape of local multiplayer games, 13AM Games is entering the arena with arguably the most colorful game of the group so far. Runbow is all about the race to the finish, while not only trying not to get too distracted by the gorgeously colorful world, but also making sure the color doesn't literally pull the rug out from under you. This platformer is chaotic fun and one of the best (and simplest) multiplayer experiences on Wii U.
The premise for Runbow is an easy one. Up to nine players get together and try to reach the end of a stage, with mainly melee strikes at their disposal. The background will rapidly change color and if the background color matches the color of a platform, that platform is momentarily nonexistent. That means new walls can pop up or jumps can get a lot more treacherous at the drop of a hat. Even with a full session of nine players, it's entirely possible to have all nine players flame out and get killed by a stage's obstacles or fall off a cliff.
Games get more frantic with the introduction of random power-ups. Runbow actually differs from most other games in this regard in one notable way. A power-up is not always a positive and while it can often turn the tide of a stage, it won't always be in the favor of whoever picked it up. Lightning strikes and killer boxing gloves are definitely plusses, but there are also pickups like a position swap that will switch spots with a random player, which can be killer for a player in the lead. There are also power-ups like a mimicry pickup that will temporarily turn all players into the character that picked it up and a pickup that turns the screen upside-down, with switched-up controls to match. Power-ups are less of a boost and more of a gamble, which is actually refreshing in a game like this, because it doesn't mean that the first person to reach a power-up will necessarily win.
While the Run mode is Runbow's bread and butter, there are a couple of other game modes that serve to mix up the action fairly decently. Arena Mode is all about surviving and trying to kill opponents or knock them into hazards, which can be fun, but doesn't have the same kind of imagination as the main game mode. Same can be said for King of the Hill, which is more about frantically knocking opponents off a particular spot on a stage before they can claim it. The latter mode can actually be kind of frustrating, since there is no way to block incoming attacks. If there's a butt stomp coming from above, there's nothing that can really be done about it.
By far, the most imaginative game mode is Color Master, which pits a group of players against a single user on the Wii U GamePad. The GamePad user actually has the colors and obstacles at their disposal, with the objective to take out all of the on-screen runners. While the races will unfold as normal, the Color Master can win the overall game through total elimination. It's an amazingly cool use of the GamePad and leads to some frantic sessions.
While multiplayer will be where most players gravitate towards, Runbow also has a surprisingly engaging single-player/co-op mode. Adventure Mode features four worlds of individual micro-challenges, with many of them averaging less than 30 seconds. It'll sometimes take much longer to complete them, because these stages can get surprisingly difficult. It's a good way to prepare for the main game, since it's essentially just a single-player version of the main multiplayer mode and utilizes the same principles.
There's also a second single-player mode called the Bowhemoth, a straight no-save campaign designed purely for experts. The level design is highly devious, with background changes coming much faster and platform placement designed more for memorization. While it's theoretically possible to play nine-player co-op on this mode, it feels more designed to be a solo effort, since everyone would trip over each other's shoelaces and have to start from scratch. Bowhemoth won't be afraid to taunt players, either, as a death counter will be omnipresent throughout the game.
As far as massive party games go, it'll be hard to top Runbow this year. With most Wii U/Wii controllers supported, getting players together shouldn't be much trouble. The multiplayer game modes are also available online, but there are some noticeable kinks in that area. Some latency issues and required extra loading means a lot of the action slows down when playing online, which takes some of the fun out of games. But if there are about half a dozen friends around looking for a way to pass the night, this is a game that should be in the rotation.
This review is based on a Wii U code provided by the publisher. Runbow is available Thursday, August 27 on Wii U for $14.99. The game is rated E.
- Strong and well-executed premise
- Easy-to-learn mechanics ideal for a party atmosphere
- Variety of multiplayer modes
- Surprisingly fun single-player and co-op play
- Online play is hit-or-miss
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Runbow review - Rainbow Bright