Few things make me surprised these days when it comes to games, but needless to say the manipulation of hardware to make the impossible possible made me sceptical. Runbow may not look like much on the surface, but beneath the striking veneer lies what can only be described as sorcery to make its high native multiplayer capacity. But is it worth having that many controllers for it?
13AM Games’ debut has an interesting vibe surrounding it thanks to its zany style. You won’t find a great amount of detail in the visuals, as they’re orientated towards functionality, but it’s far from unappealing. The music however is highly repetitive, even with its vast assortment of tracks, due to the short loops.
As you begin each level, you’ll see that there is enough space for nine players to begin a race. Through some rather inventive mastery of the arcane arts that is the Wii U’s control schemes, 13AM Games have made it so that an accessory plugged into a Wii Remote acts as another player. There’s no interference to the other player aside from the cable, and though you can use a Classic Controller, the controls are simple enough for even the Nunchuck to be used as a controller.
While your actions are limited to running, jumping, and a few martial art moves, there is a constant shifting in the background colours that makes platforms or lasers appear and disappear, so that you’re constantly having to adjust to compensate. Enemies do feature in courses as well, but are merely obstacles among the many pitfalls and traps in the levels.
You’ll also have to keep an eye out for the vast range of powerups available. Boxing gloves can eliminate enemies you punch, while lightning stuns other racers to a standstill. You also have a dash, world shifting powers, and even the ability to briefly turn everyone into your character, a little like Agent Smith from the Matrix movies. These add to the simplistic controls to create a party game that’s easy to pick up and play, but is hard to master, which is really what the Wii U needs more of.
Really there isn’t much else to the gameplay, but with a myriad of different multiplayer modes, there’s little chance that Runbow will run out of steam too quickly. Aside from Colour Master, where the player holding the Wii U GamePad controls the obstacles and tries to eliminate the other players, everything from races to arena fights and King of the Hill is available to play both online and offline. With the maximum number of players, this multiplayer experience is a blast.
You can even opt to play with friends during the two single-player oriented modes. Adventure has you tackle set levels to get the best times, culminating in challenges from your adversary Satura, while the “Bowhemoth” mode challenges players to complete the gauntlet with as few deaths and as fast a time as possible, with no save points. Adventure mode should keep you occupied for a few hours and it’s a tight race to grab the unlockables that come from the Bowhemoth challenge, but there isn’t much more for solo players.
However there is one thing to keep note of. The more players you have at any given time, the more fun it is thanks to the party-like design of the game. If it is just the two of you playing, it isn’t as crazy as having the full capacity of players, and if you want more players in the same room then the price of entry depends on how many Wii Remotes and attachments you have. Online does offset this a little, but it’s not as intimate and you don’t get those moments you’ll talk about for the rest of the night.
Unlockables are numerous, with many character masks and costumes to use. Like a lot of indie games these days, guest characters are available for use once you’ve passed certain conditions and generally suit the style well. Chances are that if you’ve played an indie game on the Wii U or 3DS in the past couple of years that at least one or two are recognisable. Gallery artwork and achievements round off the extras, which seem the standard these days for extra content and don’t push the boat.
At its heart, Runbow is a game to break out during a big gathering, rather than play on your own. Nothing is more fun than hooking up controllers and playing with a whole bunch of your friends for a night, and Runbow offers that in spades, provided you have all the Wii Remotes and attachments at your disposal. It’s the perfect fit for the design philosophy of Nintendo’s consoles lately and a great debut from 13AM Games.