SpeedRunners PC Review
Even if you’re not a comic book fan, you’ve encountered a nod or two to the much maligned ‘Silver Age’ of comics somewhere in your pop culture experiences, most likely in cartoon-form. For those of you not in the know, the ‘Silver Age’ lasted from approximately 1956 to 1970, and is best known for its simple, bright art aesthetic and overly goofy/bizarre storylines (like Batman fighting a monster made of many colors with many brightly colored Batsuits, or Jimmy Olsen turning into a gorilla or a lady or a Frankenstein monster every other week). SpeedRunners, the delightful competitive racing game from Double Dutch Games, combines ‘silver age’ tropes and a fun, competitive setup to create a truly enjoyable experience.
The basic premise of SpeedRunners is pretty simple. Basically it’s a 2D version of Mario Kart where running has replaced driving a go-kart, and wonderfully cartoonish super-beings have replaced koopas and princesses. To start, the player controls the titular hero Speedrunner as he races against various nefarious villains (which have some truly goofy/impressive designs) through the various locales of New Rush city. You run your way through Story Mode to learn the basics of the game and unlock new levels and skins for your racers. Then you go to the online matching system and test your speedrunning skills against the best the online community has to offer.
The controls are very basic: move left or right, jump, slide, use an item, and grappling hook. There are of course various pickups, speed bonuses, and traps in each stage that must be sought out or avoided. Within this simple framework, Double Dutch have really given us an absolute knock out of a racing game, straightforward but with a lot of nuances players will need to get their heads around to thrive in the high stakes races of New Rush City. Items need to be saved or jettisoned in a very calculated manner, and careful use of the grappling hook (which is, by the way, awesome) is something that really makes all the difference between a mediocre player and a great one.
I found the Story Mode to be pretty fun while remaining fairly challenging as well. Progressing through story segments and then through higher and higher difficulty settings is a really great way to hone your skills, and I found the adjustment of difficulty from step to step to be very organic (never unnecessarily frustrating either). But Story Mode is really just an appetizer before the main course, which is the multiplayer online play. The best competitive multiplayer games are the ones that make it easy to find a match, have a fair ranking system, and feature enough variety in level and character appearance to keep the whole process from feeling repetitive. SpeedRunners accomplishes all these requirements, presenting a multiplayer system that can easily draw in a player for hours at a time.
The stages included by the developers are all very cleverly laid out and very smartly rendered. The kinds of hazards featured are varied enough to allow for a very nuanced variety of challenges from stage to stage. In addition to the built in stages, players can create and share their own. I’m a big fan of games that allow this kind of perk to players. Of course not all the player-designed stages are amazing but a shocking number were, which just adds an absurd amount of replay value to an already addictive game.
What really sets SpeedRunners apart from similar games, besides good design, is the fact that Double Dutch Games has really committed to the over-the-top superhero aesthetic and knows how to work it. New Rush City is retro-futurism at its best, complete with every kind of amenity a city could have (a zoo, a casino, a silo, a Chinatown, etc) and all rendered in clean, cartoonish lines. The soundtrack is somewhere between Adam West era Batman and an over the top joke version of Sean Connery era James Bond scores; it’s awesome, in other words. And, as I briefly mentioned before, the character design just delighted me. Generic villains spitting out hammed-up pun lines would have been enough for me, but the wacky sense of humor present in these dastardly felons costumes is just too much. Some of these guys could be straight out of The Tick: Unic (the guy in the pink Brony suit), the Falcon (of course a man with glasses and a terrible moustache in a poorly fitting chicken suit), and my personal favorite Buckshot (a literal deer touting a shotgun and dressed as a hunter) are instant classics of the superhero parody genre and just a sheer delight to a super dweeb like me.
SpeedRunners is an excellent game for arcade racing game fans everywhere. Its controls are simple, its gameplay is addictive, and the Saturday morning cartoon vibe all combine together to make this game an instant classic. It will have you racing again and again and again, just for the satisfaction of moving up in the rankings and finally putting that smug guy in the cosmonaut suit in his place. Happy running, everybody.