Almost three years after we first looked at it, Runbow is now on Nintendo Switch. Does the colourful racer work just as well on Switch as it did on Wii U?
When developer 13AM Games released multiplayer footracing platformer Runbow in 2015, it was a smash hit. A clever party game with easy-to-learn mechanics, containing a vast variety of multiplayer modes, and an ample amount of single-player content and unlockables, Runbow was a cult favourite.
Almost three years later, Runbow is back for a second round, this time on Nintendo Switch. A lot has changed in terms of the gaming landscape, but Runbow remains largely the same. So how does it feel on Nintendo’s newest console? It still feels pretty good, but it does have a few issues that may be beyond the developer’s control.
The premise for Runbow involves up to nine players getting together for a foot race. The idea is to reach the end of each stage and collect the trophy first, utilising melee strikes, butt stomps, and power-ups to prevent other players from doing so first. The background is constantly changing colour and if that colour matches that of any platform, that platform is momentarily out of play. That means new obstacles can pop up or the rug can literally be swept out from underneath a player’s feet. That makes these races supertreacherous, where it’s entirely possible for all nine racers to get wiped out.
The individual courses are all cleverly designed, some testing players’ platforming prowess, others featuring obstacles like lava and spike pits, and others scrolling up vertical shafts. Making things trickier are the power-ups, which can give players the power to either get slightly ahead, or take out the opposition directly. They’re not so much a boost, as they are a gamble, given that they’re completely randomised and there are more than a couple of power-ups that can backfire.
Races can get downright chaotic, making the race to the finish the best of Runbow's game modes. However, there are other modes that mix up the action and feel just as fun. There’s a King-of-the-Hill mode that tasks players with standing on a designated point for a certain amount of time. It’s a mode that gets more fun with more players, as everyone scrambles to take everyone out with butt stomps. There’s also Arena Mode, which is the survival mode that sees players looking to knock each other into hazards and be the last person standing. There are no shortage of choices for party crowds and all of those choices are superb.
Runbow can also be a solo party, in more ways than one. There’s a robust Adventure mode that works to teach players the Runbow mechanics, while also piecing together a decent story pitting players against a rogue, colourless pirate named Satura. Many of the multiplayer elements are in place, making this an ideal way to learn the ropes. Players can also go off on their own paths, meaning every player will reach the end of the story in a different way.
The more interesting single-player mode is the Bowhemoth, which puts together some of the most brutally tough levels that Runbow can string together. Players are given a limited amount of lives and no saves, meaning only the hardened Runbow player should even attempt this. It feels like an old-school, tough-as-nails platformer and it’s an appreciated addition to what’s mostly a party game with friends.
But let’s hope there are friends around, because the online lobbies feel noticeable empty. Following Runbow‘s launch and in the days afterwards, there were only a few players waiting to race online. It was disappointing, to say the least, because Runbow is at its best with multiple players. With cross-play being all the rage these days, Runbow would have benefited from cross-play connections either with the game’s Steam version, Xbox One version, or any other version. Even with the Switch’s install base, it doesn’t appear that anybody is playing online, which is a disappointment.
Those looking for the basic Runbow experience can find everything they’re looking for on the Nintendo Switch. Is it a full upgrade from the Wii U version? Not exactly. The Wii U version had a clever game mode called colour Master, in which one person on the Wii U GamePad could select the colour patterns and try to troll their friends into dying. Losing that mode is sad, but fortunately, Runbow has plenty else to keep your attention.
Runbow is still an incredible party game and with Nintendo’s multitude of controller options, it’s possible to get up to eight players together for total madness. In terms of pure fun, it’s hard to find anything better, as Runbow even manages to outshine a lot of its AAA competition with just the simplest of premises.