Runner3 is Weird - (Switch) Review
This is my impressions of Runner3 after purchasing it on sale for $2 down from its original $20. This isn’t a "is it worth it" video, since the price is always changing and while some gamers are looking for value, others have more expendable income and $20 feels like $2 to someone else. I do think about often if a game’s price should effect a game’s rating. There are a lot of free to play games, that I wouldn’t consider good games, but I often am more forgiving of a game that is priced lower compared to a full price $60 game. So instead of looking at the price, I encourage everyone to start about time. Time is a much more valuable resource than money, and we should be asking ourselves if a game is worth our time. Time away from our families, the time we could be working out, the time we could be making income.
So with that out of the way, is Runnner3 worth your time? The simple answer yes, of course, I enjoyed many aspects of the game, but how much of you’re time is what I’ll dig into for this review. There are different perspectives I can look at this game. One perspective from a player who played/enjoyed the original Bit.Trip games, and skipped Runner2 like me. Another perspective of a person who’s just played runner2, and the last perspective from a player who hasn’t played any of the Runner games. The gameplay is simple and addicting. You jump, kick, and slide to avoid obstacles as Commander Video runs from the start to the end of the stage. The graphics and feel are more similar to Runner2 than the classic game, and Runner3 takes the changes made in Runner2 and dare I say runs with it. It makes the graphics and levels them more vibrant showcasing various perspective changes, dynamics level changes, and areas with multiple paths.
You’ll probably get more enjoyment out of the game as a casual player or someone with kids, who’s experiencing Runner for the first time. The graphics are colorful, the characters are wacky, and the story is lighthearted. The game starts with a warning that this is the hardest Runner game yet, and that’s true if that’s what you're looking for, but it has great flexibility in its difficulty that you can adjust before any level. The music is nice and catchy and very similar to what I’ve seen from Runner2. Personally, I felt that the music was much more vibrant, dynamic, and memorable in the original Bit.Trip Runner compared to these newer titles including this one. It might be that I’m looking back at the game with rose-colored goggles and remembering how unique the original one was back when I first played it.
The music which the series has been known for isn’t as memorable or innovative compared to the original Runner and seems to reuse a lot of music from Runner2 from what I can tell. I guess I would describe it as taking influences from techno or synth-pop. The music consists mostly of beeps and boops, which reminds me of human music from Rick and Morty. [insert clip] Let me know if you agree, but the Bit.Trip mini-games felt more like rhythm games, similar to Guitar Hero where you had to press specific buttons at the right time with the music reflecting it. In the first Runner game, the tones and rhythm would start slow and by collecting the power-ups to Mega, Ultra, and Extra the background music would ramp up reflecting how well you did in the game. In this latest installment, the music feels the same from the beginning of each level until the end, and I couldn’t really differentiate the music in each level even as I progressed to different worlds. You still get those powerups to go Extra and can even customize Commander Videos’ blazing trail or change his costume.
In Runner 3, you have a double jump ability right off the bat that makes the precise jumping more forgiving, so you can double jump to avoid pitfalls or multiple enemies, but at the same time making sure you don’t overshoot a landing. You can also hold down while you are in the air to fall to the ground faster, which is a lifesaver when you are on a collision path, and give you more control over your movement. Jumping over an enemy, kicking an obstacle, or collecting one of the hundred gold bars on each level lets out a note and hitting all the notes fells like you are playing sheet music with whole, half and quarter notes. So missing or neglecting the gold bars feels like skipping a note, and like a song you listen to multiple times, you begin to notice the tune is off in your head after you replay stages over and over. There is one checkpoint, at the halfway point in each stage, but you can also jump over the checkpoint for an extra bonus or challenge, but failing will take you all the way back to the beginning.
Speaking of dying and replaying levels, on the hardest difficulty setting I had to each level at least 15 times or as much as 40 times to complete it. While I enjoy the challenge and could have scaled it down at any time, some levels aren’t about your reaction time, but a test of memory on your next try. The game is always throwing different mechanics at you such as vehicles, speeds, perspective changes, and shifting or appearing platforms that will change up how you're used to playing. I can’t tell you how weird it feels when you have to start avoiding obstacles while moving from the left to right, or looking at commander video from a 45-degree angle from the back, instead of perpendicularly. These sudden changes may result in what feels like cheap deaths, or “how was I supposed to know that” moments, but If you enjoy games where you know you will die a lot and are up for experimenting, this game will feel rewarding afterward. Getting that “in your face” moment to the stage that was mocking you. There are many parts where you can find an easier path, by neglecting to collect all 100 gold bars in the stage. My compulsion for getting all the gold bars had me playing levels way longer than normal just to get that 1 or two tricky bars.
I prefer to think of this game as more of a memory game as opposed to a rhythm game, and if you purchase the game with that mindset, you won’t be disappointed. What you also have to know is that the game takes its weird concept and characters and dials it up to 11 in the weirdness or absurd factor. You have an over the top announcer form Runner2 returning, a bizarre story with a mysterious hamburger guy in a trench coat that looks like he’s about to flash his salami, and absurd boss battles to match. Check out this moment where you jump on a sliding worm, it actually lets out a horrifying scream as you land on it, but made me laugh each time I did it.
Each of the three main worlds contains a boss at the end that plays quite differently than the main stages. These are more forgiving, with frequent checkpoints, even in the hardest difficulty that makes these bosses pretty easy. These bosses include a robot dressed as Santa Claus that shoots sausages at you, a group of creepy parliament owls, and a mermaid-mech hybrid.
Speaking of weird, I feel uncomfortable looking at the female commander video, or Commandergirl Video. She has no clothes or is wearing skin-tight latex that shows off her T&A. I never thought that commander video had a gender, or just thought of him as an alien. Just being able to change color from black to pink and add a bow accessory, like the other costumes would have done the trick, but it shows commander video and Commandergirl Video being a couple. This probably reinforces traditional gender norms than being progressive. But maybe the next game or reboot idea would be the son or daughter of this partnership.
There are also side missions, called Hero Quests, you can encounter in many stages, usually by taking an alternate path, that requires you to collect items from other stages to unlock characters. The mission pauses while you talk to a character in need of your help. Such as the Da Noodle Man who seems to be barfing noodles. All the characters talk in this strange over the top, self-aware manner, that you will come to expect. Once you complete a hero quest you are rewarded with a new playable character, which includes some crossover characters such as Shovel Knight and Eddie Riggs from Brutal Legend.
Additional characters all play the same, similar to the costumes and accessories you can purchase using coins and gems, it’s a cool added cosmetic change as you play through the 3 separate worlds with a total of 30 stages. There are also additional bonus stages and impossible challenges that are just as tough as they sound, leaving little to no room for error. There are also retro 2D levels that are more like platformers where you can control, move, and jump in any direction to collect coins used in the shop. Each stage also has a gem path that unlocks after you complete the stage the first time, basically doubling the number of stages. So there is a lot to play and unlock in this game.
So to wrap up, even though I bought this game when it was 90% off its original $20 price tag, it still left me wanting more of what I remember that made Bit.Trip runner so excellent. Runner3 is an entertaining game, with lots of stages, replayability, and overloaded with weirdness. I still encourage you to check it out if you still want to play it after this review.
Thanks for reading this review and feel free to leave a comment if you’ve stuck with the Runner series and what you thought of Runner3. Until next time, take care.