|Runbow Pocket Deluxe
|13 AM Games
|13 AM Games, Nighthawk Games
|June 20th, 2017
|New Nintendo 3DS
|E for Everyone – Mild fantasy violence
Platformers are my bread and butter, which makes it strange I never bought Runbow on the Wii U. I tried out the demo and thought that the game was a bit too easy for my tastes. However, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to demo Runbow Pocket at PAX last year, and found myself really drawn in by the more challenging levels they had on display. So when I heard that Runbow Pocket Deluxe was coming out, the physical 3DS version with most of the DLC thrown in, I got excited. I might have avoided Runbow originally, but physical editions make everything better. The question then is how did 13AM Games’ colorful adventure translate to the small screen?
Let’s get the plot out of the way real quick, as there isn’t much to speak of. Monochromatic Satura is jealous of colorful Hue and Val having fun without her, so she somehow draws everything into what appear to be old movie posters. Our two heroes jump in to stop her, and we’re off to the races. It’s not much, but I don’t need much for platformers either. It’s not a RPG, so I didn’t come in expecting complex characters or scenarios. What a platformer lives and dies on is its gameplay, so let’s discuss what’s available in Runbow Pocket Deluxe.
The primary mode is Adventure mode, where you go into the four posters, each of which represents a different themed world, such as the prison oriented Break-Out or the jubilant Lost Luau. Each of those worlds is split into 30 levels, bringing Adventure mode to a grand total of 120 levels (plus one last stage you unlock). While the game doesn’t hold your hand and explain the mechanics much, most of them should be pretty intuitive if you’ve played any platformers. You can bash foes, double jump, triple jump with a punch and dash straight ahead by pressing the attack button twice in succession. That last one took me a while to master, as there is always a small break between you activating the dash and actually dashing, which made me generally opt to not use it.
You use all of your skills to try and beat each level as fast as possible, with the goal of meeting or beating the par time to get the most medals. Most stages can be beaten in half a minute, though some, like the Satura stages, can be longer. Stages either consist of grabbing the trophy, beating enemies or collecting coins. At this point you’d be forgiven for thinking it all sounds pretty basic. It would, except for the fun twist of the game, which is how color affects everything.
Most every stage alternates between several colors that swipe across the background. These aren’t just for looks either, since if you can’t see a color, it doesn’t exist. The color swipe can erase structures, shield enemies and much more. It’s hard to accurately describe all the variations, but suffice to say, the game is constantly colorful chaos. While Adventure mode does tend to slowly get more challenging the farther you go, there are occasional huge spikes in difficulty that surprised me. Generally I was able to beat a level with the maximum of three medals, but some stages I was lucky to get the bare minimum of one medal from. These tended to be stages where I was thrown to the ceiling and had to keep track of my controls, or stages where I had to wait on hazards to get by safely. I would say that most levels are totally fair, but they do cater more to the hardcore platformer enthusiast than the optimistic newbie.
Each world in Adventure mode has one stage devoted to Satura, and those are essentially longer portions that end with you fighting your way to her. She has tons of traps and hazards to keep you from simply running up and bashing her on the head, but for the most part these sections of the game felt underwhelming. The only truly epic boss fight against her is in the hidden final level of Adventure mode, only unlocked by beating every other stage. While I can understand not wanting to make these sections overwhelming, I would have almost preferred an entire stage of me fighting against Satura, much like the sole epic boss fight of Satura’s Space Adventure.
Speaking of the DLC, Satura’s Space Adventure was a much shorter but also much more satisfying jaunt than the standard Adventure mode. Only composed of 36 stages, it nevertheless felt more varied, fun and challenging. It introduces new mechanics, such as portals, tractor beams and much more. The way Space Adventure progressed also felt more satisfying to me, and even though it was shorter, I felt I had accomplished more at the end of it. The music for Space Adventure was better overall, sounding like a corny space drama inspired soundtrack from the 60s. While the music was okay in Adventure mode, it sounded more subdued, even when I had the volume all the way up.
Though I enjoyed both Adventure and Space Adventure modes, by far my favorite was the hardcore Bowhemoth. You jump inside the gullet of the titular monster and have to jump, punch and dash your way out. Best of all (or possibly worst, depending on your preference) the game doesn’t save in Bowhemoth, meaning your goal is to get through it all in one sitting. To keep that from being a nuisance, you never have to restart from the very beginning, as this mode generously implements basic checkpoints every time you reach a new area. This was by far the most challenging part of Runbow Pocket Deluxe, and I loved it for that. I spent just under 50 minutes making my way through Bowhemoth, with a ton of deaths at the end, but it was all worth it when I finally was victorious!
Besides these three primary modes, there is a multiplayer portion of the game. It’s fortuitous that I don’t judge a game much on the multiplayer, as every time I tried to join a game I was unable to find anyone online. While I know for some people the multiplayer is more important than the single player experience, I felt the single player in Runbow Pocket Deluxe was robust enough to justify only buying the game for that.
Graphically speaking, Runbow Pocket Deluxe is a pretty game. While I feel that porting the game to the small screen affected the size of the character sprites, I never had to squint to see what was going on. The constant use of color keeps you motivated to play one more level, which is a good thing. What was less satisfying was how in some of the cutscenes the edges were blurred unattractively. The music is a bit of a mixed bag. The sounds in basic Adventure mode were fine but subdued, whereas in Space Adventure they were incredibly catchy and Bowhemoth was deliciously ominous. The music was definitely more good than bad, and the punchy sound effects helped me time my jumps and dashes well. I only had the sound drop out in one level unexpectedly, which did result in my death, but this was a minor problem I never encountered again.
While I did enjoy my eight or so hours with the game, it wasn’t without some problems. I found troublesome glitches which threw me off my game. For example, a couple of times I thought I was far enough away from an enemy and it bounced me backwards suddenly. Worse were the times I stopped running as if I hit a wall when there was nothing in my way. In some of the stages that required precise triple jumps, I would sometimes land on a flat surface and slide off. Though these aren’t deal breakers, as they weren’t constant issues, they did happen enough to frustrate me. Lastly, the load times in the game can sometimes bog things down, as they can take up to 10 seconds. Considering most levels can be beaten in half a minute, that can take you out of the action too much. It’s my hope that 13AM Games might be able to patch some of these issues at a later date. Runbow Pocket Deluxe is still a good game, but fixing these issues would make it truly great.
As far as replay value, there’s a surprising amount in the game. The medals you obtain in every level unlock tons of content, such as art and even new characters. 13AM Games has a ton of amazing cameo characters here, with my favorites being Shantae, who is somehow more cute here than usual, Shovel Knight, in his usual blue glory, as well as Xeodrifter, Gunvolt and Commander Video. As if those skins weren’t enough, you can also unlock tons of costume parts to further customize your avatar. And nothing motivates you to keep improving quite like the constant trash talk you’ll get every time you die. Hearing things like “You should see the hard levels”, “Are you insane yet?” or “Failure, delicious failure” really motivated me to cut a few more seconds off my best times.
Overall, I really had a great time with Runbow Pocket Deluxe. It provides a pretty meaty package for just $29.99, including the base game and all the DLC besides a few costume options. Despite some annoying gameplay issues I encountered, it still ran pretty smoothly and I never experienced any real slowdown to speak of. 13AM Games has made the definitive platformer for every Nintendo fan out there. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go back and get the rest of those medals!
Review Copy Purchased by Author