Sometimes intricate level design, interesting abilities, hilarious art direction and cutscenes
Inconsistent, blindsiding levels and checkpoints; cheap difficulty; imprecise controls; expensive
Qubic Games is known for quirky, often derivative, titles, and 2 Fast 4 Gnomz, a 3DS eShop port of a WiiWare sequel, is no exception. This game is insane. In this day and age of gritty plots and drab greyness, it’s refreshing to see a game that throws all pretence of a valid premise out the window. 2 Fast 4 Gnomz is the story of a gnome who wants to obtain every sock in existence to save his friend– a coffer who subsists on the socks. Is that really the story? It doesn’t matter.
Much like Bit.Trip Runner, 2 Fast 4 Gnomz is an on-rails running game– movement is completely independent of the player and running into anything indestructible will kill you. At first, all you can do is a simple jump and glide with your parachute (a shirt, by the way), clearing ledges and gaps and catching up-drafts, but as you progress through the worlds and rescue princesses (whose appearances are such that you wish you really were in another castle), you’ll gain more runner powers to deal with new environmental obstacles and change into alternate forms in the process.
One such ability is the enraged power, which grants you a red-horned helmet and lets you destroy all the dead trees in your path. The trade-off is that you have an almost ineffectual jump, so in order to clear ledges you have to switch back to your normal form. That sad jump does come in useful later on, however, when there are stalactites on low ceilings and you need to clear tiny steps. The red form also has increased mass, which helps in avoiding the tornadoes that blow you away. With two powers alone, the game becomes a tricky balance between shifting from power to power, and it’s all at a speed you’re unable to control, too.
And herein lies the intrinsic cheapness of the game. Much of the challenge comes from shifting modes— and we’re only dealing with two right now: normal with glide, and red. Gliding is activated by pressing up while jumping. Red is activated by B, so when navigating between up-drafts and tornadoes, it’s all too easy to get, quite literally, swept away by the controls. There’s no reason for making glide a two-button affair when it can just as easily be activated with a lone other button like R which is completely unused. Jumps appear to be inconsistent as well, with light presses of A letting you do a short hop, and longer jumps with correspondingly longer presses— except when the game decides not to let that happen, and you win the Olympics with a tap of the button.
This frustration intensifies with the next power– speed (which naturally increases your running speed by pressing forward)– as well as the later levels, which essentially require navigating Super Mario-style levels in the shoes of Sonic the Hedgehog. There’s one crucial difference, though: Sonic and Mario can stop moving.
The fourth power is a Sands of Time/Braid-like rewind ability that I initially thought would be an absolute godsend. I thought it would resolve all the issues I’ve just described, but bizarrely this is the sole power that can’t be activated at will. You can only use it at designated time rewind points to solve certain puzzles, and the duration of the rewind is set, regardless of how long you press the rewind button, leading to yet more deaths. In essence, it’s everything we hate about modern 2D Sonic games (bottomless chasms that appear without warning and cheap deaths that are supposed to occur, so you’ll learn the level layout, using awful design to artificially increase difficulty and play time) with only a small helping of what we love about 2D Mario titles (precise jumps and landings). I’m not sure anybody can run through this game the first time on reflex alone.
Technical problems mar the experience further. Background elements are often indistinguishable from foreground obstacles, though that is mitigated somewhat by activating the 3D. The groove of a perfect run is ruined by frequent slowdowns in the frame rate, too, which is completely baffling when you’re the only character on screen at any given point. Load times make you wait prior to each level as well, and are unacceptable for such a simple game.
Despite all of these issues, though, 2 Fast 4 Gnomz has a weird, hypnotic charm. Its initially horrifying Flash-based art style grows on you, as do the rudimentary animations. When in the zone, running through the intricate level design, catching all the socks in time with the catchy music, you can just about see a glimpse of the game’s potential and its contribution to the runner genre. And then it kills you, and that’s all your goodwill evaporated.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.