Review: Runbow (Switch)

The third time is definitely the charm for this endearing platformer!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 08/03/2018 11:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Color-changing mechanic is fun and adds depth to the gameplay; tight controls; cheery, punchy presentation; memorable soundtrack; tons of Nindie characters to choose from; multiplayer is strong...
Poison Mushroom for...
... however, it's less impactful with fewer players in tow

For those not in the know, Runbow was one of the cooler titles to hit Wii U back in the day. It eventually made its way over to New 3DS as well, but for many, Runbow on Switch will be their first introduction to the game. Which is good, as this is arguably the definitive version of Runbow, marrying the portability of the New 3DS iteration with the stronger aesthetics of the Wii U build. Runbow is a game that can be played both solo and with others. There’s also a wealth of unlockables that make coming back for just one more go all the more enticing.

The objective in Runbow is simple: reach the end goal. Getting from point A to point B, however, is a bit easier said than done. There’s a reason that Runbow sounds like “rainbow,” as its gameplay is predicated upon color. The background is a solid hue that’s constantly shifting from one color to another. As the tone changes, it either reveals or obscures platforms in the game environment. The resulting rhythm of avoiding obstacles and enemies while simultaneously navigating the transitioning elements of the environment is what makes Runbow so endearing.

What is so effective about Runbow’s color-swapping mechanic is that it introduces the need for strategy while running through its stages. There are typical platforming challenges here that require traditional problem-solving, but throwing in a plethora of platforms that blip in and out of corporeality requires a different mindset to reach victory. It’s this transitory nature of the game environment that had me constantly trying to ferret out the best way to get through a stage. Do I jump above this segment of the stage or wait a moment for the middle section to disappear once the background shifts to yellow? That’s one of countless exhilarating predicaments that never got old.

Thankfully the actual mechanics of running, jumping, and attacking are up to snuff with the level design. There are a multitude of different characters to choose from, and it’s this roster that actually strengthens Runbow overall. There are a bunch of Nindie characters to be found here, including Shovel Knight, Shantae, Max from Mutant Mudds, Commander Video from the Runner series, and more. These characters all lend a great deal to Runbow’s whimsical personality. For instance, when the player dies, the screen displays a small joke or jab about his performance straight from the game itself. It’s one of many small touches that make Runbow so charming.

The presentation helps further hammer out Runbow’s distinct flavor. The soundtrack is a whirlwind of catchy tunes that amplify the hectic on-screen action. Something about the music is perfectly in sync with the gameplay, which is always a treat to behold. Graphically, Runbow isn’t about ostentatious 3D character models and environs. Instead, the game world is made up of black silhouettes and large splashes of color. It’s a minimalist aesthetic that, like the soundtrack, functions in perfect tandem with the tone of the game. Developer 13AM Games did a wonderful job of selling a sense of immersion in Runbow that so many other titles fall short of.

Runbow is also a game that manages to deliver on both its single and multiplayer fronts. Single-player’s primary focus is on Adventure mode. Here, the goal is to either reach the end of a stage, acquire a certain number of items, or defeat a specified quantity of baddies. It’s the meat and potatoes of Runbow, and is packed with stages to get through. There’s also Bowhemoth mode to contend with, which ratchets up the difficulty level by making the platforming even deadlier and trickier, while also removing the ability to save. It’s brutal!

Multiplayer modes, meanwhile, include Arena, King of the Hill, and Run, which all task players with different objectives in order to come out on top. Up to eight players can join in locally, while a ninth online player can also enter the fray. Multiplayer is where Runbow becomes its most chaotic. With so many characters on-screen at once and the core, frenetic gameplay of Runbow fueling everything, it will definitely draw multiple friends and family members to the couch. That said, when experienced with a smaller number of competitors, Runbow’s multiplayer does lose some of its luster, as the action isn’t quite as intense. The inability to add bots doesn’t help, nor do random online players.

That’s a small grievance against what is otherwise a very fun, solid game. Runbow manages to stand out by virtue of its unique color-changing hook, fun presentation, and sound gameplay. Throw in lots of characters to choose from, including many familiar Nindie favorites, and the game’s lure is undeniable. Runbow is available now in the eShop with a physical Deluxe Edition slated for August 10 (which includes extra goodies!), so be sure to give the game a look and add it to your Switch software library!

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.

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