Have you ever wondered what Mario Kart would look like in 2D… if you took away Mario… and all of the karts? No, me neither, but that hasn’t stopped DoubleDutch Games from giving us exactly that with their wonderfully entertaining multiplayer platforming-racer, Speedrunners.
Currently still in production, and available as an early access beta on Steam, there’s only one game mode you can play around with â€“ the multiplayer racing, but that’s no bad thing as multiplayer components tend to be what the majority of gamers enjoy most. You’re also given a choice of 4 characters to use â€“ Speedrunner, the main character of the series, Cosmonaut Comrade, an astronaut with a snooker ball for a helmet, the fabulous looking Unie, complete with horn and pink spandex suit, and Hot Head, who resembles Aku Aku from Crash Bandicoot if he’d been doused in petrol and set alight. Each character has the same basic stats as one-another, so the choice is purely cosmetic, but each have their own unique jumping and sliding animations which is a very nice touch.
Your objective is, unsurprisingly, to be faster than the opposition by any means necessary which is made all the more interesting by the addition of standard kart-game style power-ups. Players are able to use rockets that lock onto an opponent in front of them, blowing them out of the way, lay boxes or bombs to create more obstacles for those behind, or use the ever popular grappling hook to grab whoever is in front if you and pull them backwards â€“ particularly useful for flinging other players off ledges, which feels very rewarding too. It’s not just the power-ups that cause problems for racers though, with the course wanting to cause you as much pain as possible too. Boxes that slow you down are littered throughout courses, there are levers which close certain sections of the track, and even spike pits. They kill you instantly, so it’s best to avoid those.
You also get to play around with a different grappling hook, available permanently throughout the game, which lets players grapple certain surfaces â€“ identifiable by being white rather than the background colour â€“ and fling themselves around the course in a Spiderman-esque fashion, enabling access to shortcuts and hard to reach power-ups.
All this swinging around and blowing each other up makes for incredibly fast paced and exciting gameplay, especially when the screen starts to shrink to a quarter of the size of your monitor. That’s right, instead of using the conventional method of racing to a finish line, in Speedrunners players keep racing until they’re left behind on the screen, in which they’re eliminated from the race. The camera shows the same screen for all 4 players, which not only causes pressure for whoever is last but also means the player in first can’t see what’s up ahead. Once the first player has been eliminated, or after a number minutes if everyone is equal, the screen begins to shrink, making it extremely difficult to see where your going. Races are always short, fast and exhilarating.
It’s a rather good looking game, too. The minimalist art style and the bright, bold colour scheme make it feel as though you’re a true superhero running through a comic book, and the music is a wonderful touch as well. It’s a very basic soundtrack, certainly, but it really adds to the excitement as you play, especially as the music picks up tempo as you try desperately to outrun the shrinking screen and not get swallowed into the approaching abyss of failure.
Of course, Speedrunners is by no means perfect, after all it’s only a beta. There are very few options, you can’t play in windowed mode or change the resolution, and as expected there’s not a great deal of content currently. Granted DoubleDutch are bringing out new content weekly, but it’ll require more than just a new map or power-up to get people playing for long periods of time. Helpfully a single player mode will be available on the game’s actual launch, even available as a free download so people can give it a go before paying for the multiplayer side, so that’ll help people make up their minds.
DoubleDutch have made a game with boat loads of potential, and even if it’s left as it is, it’s worth picking up for those short, adrenaline-packed thrill rides when playing online. Speedrunners is a game you can pick up and play for 5 or 10 minutes, and it’ll put a big smile on your face whenever you do.
Reviewed on PC