£11.99 (Initially free with Xbox Games With Gold June 2017)
Single player, multiplayer
Xbox One (Review), PC
With family and friends frequently gathering around the dinner table, party games have become a bit of a commodity at my place. Of course, games such as Cluedo and Monopoly have long been hit favourites in the party game genre, but with the console community quickly growing, and the old school board games slowly being replaced by interactive online experiences, we now have many party games to choose from on console. With many options though, it usually takes something special in order for us to head back in again and again – can SpeedRunners be that game? Does it contain the memorable party magic needed, or will we push it to the back of our hard drives like a dusty old game of mousetrap, never to be seen again?
The goal of SpeedRunners is quite a simple one that is summed up by the title. You and your opponents, aka the city’s superheroes, are placed into an endless platforming level in which you are required to speedrun circuits until you are the last man standing. To do this you will need to ensure you are far enough ahead of the pack that your opponent is no longer visible on the screen, which in turn eliminates them from the round. The first to win three rounds takes the overall win.
Putting things into action isn’t too difficult at first, after all, simply mastering the running and jumping is enough to get the job done provided a bit of luck comes your way. The real difficulty comes when you begin to encounter each of the level’s obstacles, hazards and pitfalls that look to slow you down. Each of the many available arenas are littered with constant annoyances – boxes, spikes, trap doors etc – and powerups that each of the players can use against each other, like shockwaves and the placing of even more crates.
After mastering the basics, you’ll probably want to get to grips with the game changers. There are two of these, with the grappling hook being the most significant. This is a tool that allows players to swing large distances without any loss to momentum. This isn’t something that can be used freely though, and it takes perfect timing to fire your grapple at specific ledges to ensure you get the advantage of swinging quickly… with the slightest mistake sending you back the other direction towards the vanishing depths of the edge of the playing screen.
The other game changer is that of the speed boost. Every character has one, but utilising it well can often be the deciding factor over gaining a win, or avoiding a loss. Boost pushes each character to much faster speeds than the normal run and can be just what you need to get that little extra distance on your opponents. But once more, this isn’t a free-to-use-as-you-wish ability. Boost drains, and to get more you’re going to need to learn the best route of each circuit to make sure you hit the boost pickup zones dotted throughout each match. That in itself will take some time given the many arenas that are available in the game.
So that’s the main jist of SpeedRunners – an endless runner that pits you and your competitors in a first to three rounds match to justify who is the best superhero. But what game modes are on offer to put your speedrunning to the test?
First up is practice.
Whilst many will view practice mode as the go-to mode for tutorial lovers, in SpeedRunners it is an essential place for those wanting to master every course. Options to play against bots of your chosen difficulty are found here, but most surprisingly for me was the option to run through each stage in a Solo Run. This practice mode quite simply removes all opponents from the stage, allowing you to learn each track, find the fastest routes and discover the ins and outs of the game, before letting you race against a ghost of your individual best lap time.
Other than practice, players can take part in both a Story mode and Multiplayer. The former of those puts players into a four-chapter campaign, with each one culminating in a 1vs1 boss battle against each of the biggest heroes of the city. Unfortunately, the story itself is a rather bland and boring experience, with nothing memorable to speak of within any of the dialogue, and a lack of any proper cinematics bringing about the feeling of a tacked-on experience.
Being a party game though, a naff story doesn’t mean it’s all over. With these type of games, multiplayer is where most of the action will be taking place and fortunately, it’s the multiplayer in which SpeedRunners really excels. Played in both a local or online fashion, with up to four players able to face off against one another, multiplayer is the place to play if you’re looking for a true challenge.
If you are someone who intends to try and dominate the online community, then practice and solo run will need to become your best friends first though. This is due to the fact that one mistake will see you lose out, and with many players already firmly up to speed with the different track layouts, you could well find yourself consistently on the losing board if you haven’t put the time in.
Whilst SpeedRunners may be a long way from any action-packed blockbuster, there is certainly enough included to warrant dusting it off every once in a while for some multiplayer madness. Sure, the story is one we’re going to forget rather quickly, but the general gameplay is generally quite fun. Once you’ve learnt every track inside out, the online community will be separated by nothing more than who has the nerve, and the most skill, to pull off that daring winning move… which gives plenty of reason to hit the practice mode every now and then.
+ One more go gameplay
+ Multiplayer is a blast
+ Practice mode is more than just a tutorial
+ Plenty of levels
- Dull, boring and forgettable story
- Levels could do with more variation than simply layout and location
- A.I. are easily bested