Whilst games like Sonic have been asking us to complete excessively difficult stages in the fastest time possible for many years now, it’s only recently that we’ve become accustomed to the term ‘speedrunning’.
Nowadays you see, speedrunning is a well-known genre of its own and has a near cult following within the world of gaming. With most games on the market providing an opportunity for the speedrunning community to claim the title of fastest completion, there’s no surprise that we’re starting to see games designed specifically to put those clever speedrunners’ skills to the test.
That’s where SEUM: Speedrunners from hell comes in.
If you’ve yet to hear of SEUM, the simplest description would be that it’s what you could expect to find if you were to mix FPS hit Quake, with the equally fast paced indie adventure, 10 Second Ninja, before painting it all with a heavy metal vibe.
There are four different game modes for players to put their skills to the test in, all of which require the same nimble fingerwork and lightning reactions for any hope of posting a score on the leaderboards. The modes available include Single Player, Extended Play, Speedrun and Endless Mode.
Single Player is the go-to mode that many will start with first, and here players are required to progress through each of the increasingly difficult levels in the quickest possible time, whilst keeping an eye out for the protagonists lost beer – which has been spread throughout the depths of hell. Is a pack of beer worth the risk of hell? Well this trucker certainly seems to think so and with his newly acquired demon’s arm to help navigate the many tests of hell, the hunt is on.
There are nine floors within SEUM, each with eleven levels. Early stages are relatively simple, introducing players to the basic hazards such as spikes and jumps and generally allowing time to get used to the rather simple controls – the thumbsticks control the camera and movement, A is for jumping, RB to shoot a ball of fire from your trusty demon arm, and RT is set to allow you to control new abilities that are given on specific levels throughout the game.
As for later levels in the game, this is where the true speedrunning skills are required. You see, to complete each level players must run through each one, avoiding the many hazards, before reaching the blue portal at the end of the level. Each level requires you to action different things, with some requiring you to open areas within the stage via the lighting of a firepit, whilst others may ask you to jump through moving rings in a specific order; harnessing your teleportation and anti-gravity skills.
There are many different tasks for players to complete along the way, but if you hope to achieve full completion then you’ll need to bring perfect accuracy and incredible control with you. That’s because each level within the game is timed, and later on, taking too long on a stage will see you needing to retry a level, even if you do manage to make it to the end. This will mean retrying over and over as the slightest mistake can lead to many seconds wasted – and when a level gives you a ten second time limit this can prove impossible should you have missed that jump, or slipped of the ledge.
That may sound daunting to a speedrunning newcomer, but the difficulty curve within the game helps make things surprisingly accessible, with many levels asking players to complete newly introduced challenges or tasks with freshly acquired powers in several different ways before moving onto the next. This all allows you plenty of time to master the controls and link movements together seamlessly.
Away from the single player mode though and you’ll find the option of Extended Play, Speedrun and Endless Mode to sink their teeth into.
Extended Play is a rather interesting one for me, as the initial message that pops up on screen informs you that this is the mode to play for level packs that have released after the original game, insinuating there are more levels to come to the game at a later date. For now though there is just one extra episode for players to get stuck into – Conspiracy of The Ale. This episode contains levels which offer more bite-sized challenges and are genuinely a lot of fun to play.
Speedrun Mode on the other hand is one that I can only really see competitive speedrunners going all out with. But then, I guess the name suggests that. This mode allows players to play either whole sections of the game in one go, or, if you’ve mastered all the levels, then the option to complete the entire game in the quickest time is also possible. Mastering speedrun mode isn’t all that’s there though as completion of this then unlocks the even harder hardcore mode. Want the ultimate test? This is it. Of course, you need to have finished Speedrun mode without dying at all so this isn’t something that everyone will be playing through any time soon. But for dedicated players, the challenge is there.
Finally we have the Endless Mode and this yet again does exactly as you would expect – it’s an endless test to see just how far you can get. Unfortunately, my best efforts were poor at best, and taking it slow isn’t an option either as behind you is a mincing set of saw blades ready to kill anyone dawdling along at a snail’s pace. However, the included leaderboards make this yet another mode that offers incredible replayability and addictive one-more-go gameplay.
Whilst SEUM is an interesting and exciting platformer, there are a few niggles that could of made the experience a whole lot better. First up and the lack of multiplayer is a real missed opportunity and the chance to go head to head on the same screen as others in an online environment would have brought that tense competitive feel to the front of gameplay. Another slight annoyance is the lack of explanation of the main protagonist – it becomes apparent you’re a trucker in hell, but aside from an initial intro video there isn’t much in the way of explanation as to why you’re there. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, is the inability to judge hazards around you. Although players start with the majority of their path in sight, when passing through tight gaps and around corners full of spikes, it can be hard to judge just how close you are to the edge, making that slight movement even more dangerous than maybe it ought to be.
SEUM isn’t intended for players who prefer a slower story driven game, but the gameplay is certainly impressive. It comes with intense and perfectly sized levels, enough variety throughout to keep things different and new, and a perfect difficulty curve, ensuring that SEUM: Speedrunners from Hell is a game that is not only enjoyable, but brings out the competitive nature in you – even for those not accustomed to the genre. It would have been great to see that multiplayer mode introduced in which several players go at a level together, but that is being extremely picky.
With several modes to get lost in, addictive gameplay and incredible replayability, SEUM is one of the most promising platformers of the year so far and is well worth playing even by the most casual platforming fans.