Runner 3 is fun as all hell, but boy do you get dragged through it. The FNGR GNS Review;
I’ve always been a fan of Commander Video and his retro bleeping musical rhythmic games. I was pleased to see that the star of the show has made the leap from Wii U to Nintendo’s swanky new Switch. But how does it play? Of course, I’m here to tell you.
So with most games featuring the stick with legs there isn’t much of a story, but to be fair the Runner series has always been the breakaway games, so I did hope there would be something to join all the game elements together, but alas there isn’t, at least not much of one. What we do have however is a charming nonsensical whimsical introduction served to get you past the opening and into the game proper.
I don’t usually talk about music in reviews but I feel like it’s kind of essential to mention it in Runner 3. As is the case with most Commander Video Games, music is key and is something this game will either live or die by. Good news is the music is on point with wonderous melodies emitting from the Switches small speakers with the added bonus of not getting annoying after your bazillonth time of trying a level. Mass kudos to Matthew Harwood for doing the works on the games sound.
Visually the game also stands out and sears your retinas with bright primary colours and a sweeping camera. The graphics themselves are quite simple but have loads of personality just don’t expect 4K high def textures here. The Direction of the game is also rather pleasing. Runner 3 is presented in a 2.5D style with the camera primarily locked on the 2D plane but every so often it will swoop above you or behind you in dramatic fashion, which not only changes your viewpoint but also changes the gameplay slightly. I liked that.
So what’s this game all about then? Well, it’s an auto runner which means you are constantly pushed forward no matter what you do. To start with all you have is a simple jump button and it’s up to your timing and rhythm to traverse the level. Sounds simple right? Wrong.
As you progress past the first few levels you’ll gradually be introduced to some new moves like sliding to get you under low objects or a kick to break down walls that are in your way or the trusty double jump. couple that with some varied gameplay from flying to riding a mine cart ala Donkey Kong Country. Turns out what I thought would be quite a simple game soon escalates into something much more complicated.
The idea of the game is you run along a mostly linear parth collecting gold bars. Every time you collect a gold bar it emits a beep that fits in perfectly with the beat of the background music. As you can probably tell, rhythm is key to this game, in fact, it’s a vital part and something you must perfect if you hope to progress. Along the level there are some stereos that you can collect, these add another level to the background track (think REZ) so as you go about collecting your gold and jumping you will naturally feel the rhythm and soon slide into a comfortable beat tapping frenzy which has you nodding your head and tapping your feet at the same time. It makes you feel good.
Along the levels, there are some branching paths which offer a greater challenge but with it comes greater rewards in the shape of gems. These branching paths are only available once you have completed the level at least once so, that’s 1up for replayability. Along with the branching paths, you can at times switch lanes, doing so presents more hazards to avoid but more often than not allows you the opportunity to nap a VHS cassette. Collect enough of these and you can buy your way into a full retro 2D platform game. When I say retro think Cup head. It looks great and is nice that it’s not Autorun like the main game. Although it has to be said, it’s just as tricky-maybe more so but is a nice addition to the game. There are other little side quests dotted around the game that can only be accessed with the right items. There is certainly a lot to discover If you have the patience for it.
Runner 3 is one hella difficult game. The levels are short, perhaps just a couple of minutes long with only one checkpoint along the way, if you are anything less than perfect you’ll be starting over and over and over. However, there is something about this game that keeps you going back for more. I mean you will be frustrated, you will be tempted to crack the Switch over your knee. you will pull your hair out and you will swear at the top of your voice. But you’ll always go back for more.
The reason you’ll keep going back for more is because of how well the levels are designed. If anyone has ever played Little Big Planet, you’ll know how hard it is to create a platform game. To get the timing and pace right, the gaps in platforms right, the number of obstacles that appear unfair but are just about the right amount. There is lots to think about and Runner 3 seems to have nailed it all.
it’s not perfect, however, and there are some flaws that kind of detach you from the experience. The main one for me is the lack of tactile feedback when you kick down an obstacle. Nothing happens, it feels limp and pathetic and is a world away from the simple yet important beep of the gold bars. The trouble is, you’re never too sure if you have actually kicked it down or not leaving you wincing as you approach hoping that you did connect the kick instead of running head first into the wall. The other thing is the gold bars. Not sure why but some of them fail to register a noise or play the noise just after you have collected them which really puts you off your rhythm. It’s annoying and so is the switching lanes mechanic which is more of a chore than it should be, at times you’re not even sure if you’re allowed to or not which inevitably leads to death. Oh and some of the graphical effects that fly into the screen sometimes obscures your view which inevitably leads to death.
Perhaps the biggest thing for me is that in the map screens you can only play the levels one by one in order, having to complete one level to progress to the next. That’s fine in a traditional 2D platformer but in a game like this, I would have preferred the option to play them in any order simply because if you’re stuck on one level, then you’ll stay stuck and can’t go and try another level and then come back to the level stressing you out later on. With this, there is a danger that players will rage quit and not get to see the whole game which would be a shame. Small things granted but can affect the game in fairly big ways.
I loved Runner 3, surprising seeing as I have a short attention span and even shorter temper. I guess that’s a testament to the level design, music and the graphics which all keep you hooked. There is plenty to do and find which gives the game some longevity which given the price of £24 is much needed because it’s not a cheap indie game. Gamers who are thinking of picking this game up should think long and hard about if they can stomach the sheer frustration this game vomits out at you. I hear it can be done in around 4 hours (not done by me I hasten to add) but getting 100% probably takes god-like powers.
Definitely worth a look if you’re a gluten for punishment.
Runner 3 available now on Switch (reviewed) Xbox One, PC, and Mac
Developer: Choice Provisions
Publisher: Choice Provisions
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we received a copy of the game from the publishers. For more information, please see our review policy.