Runner3 Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Choice Provisions

Publisher: Choice Provisions

Release Date: May 22nd 2018

Price as of Article: $25.49 USD, £23.79 GBP

Game code provided by Choice Provisions for review

Introduction

Commander Video has such a varied history and a plethora of genres that he’s starred in. Originating from bite-sized WiiWare games, the theme of rhythm has always been strong with this retro-infused mascot. The Runner series has always been a strong fan favourite and arguably the most breakaway series he has been in. With a star showing on the Wii U with Runner 2, rhythm fans were delighted at the series’s return for the Nintendo Switch. How does this one stack up?

Story

With an introductory story presentation, you’ll quickly realise that any notion of a story is purposefully thrown under the bus with a nonsensical introduction. It’s the perfect opening for what is to come as the whole game has a wonderful, random whacky feeling to it. The idea of a story is mocked profusely here and it’s rather lovely in how it presents it.

Audio

Audio is a huge part of a rhythm game, it’s the whole backbone of the game of which the release can live or die. Thankfully Runner3 thrives in this department. Tunes and moods are all over the place and it succeeds in just about all of them. Matthew Harwood has done a fantastic job in creating a great soundtrack to this game which is so vitally important.

For the most part it’s very whimsical and I love how it builds up over the course of a stage when you collect the stereos, until by the climax it’s truly awesome. I do wish there were more of them though, tracks are reused quite a lot which is a shame but a reality of the game’s budget and indie origins. There is enough variety and catchiness to the ones here to more than make up for it. 

Another plus point is Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario, narrates the game. Sadly he doesn’t have much of a role aside from the intro, ending and announcing the stage name, but what he does say is excellently delivered.

Visuals & Performance

runner3 switch

Visually, Runner3 has taken a step up compared to what came before. Aesthetics are simple but very pleasing on the eye. It has tonnes of personality which I greatly appreciate; comical, exaggerated animations are what sets this game above others of the genre. It may be on par with what a PlayStation 2 was capable of with models and textures but the art style and personality really make up for that. All of the random things flying around in the background can be a joy to behold just because of weird everything is. 

I really love the direction too. I know this is probably part of the gameplay, but I just love how the camera pans around in 3D showing you a more dynamic experience than if it was just straight 2D. It adds that bit of extra production quality which we can all appreciate.

Performance-wise it’s almost perfect. Nothing every really interfered with the gameplay but I did notice a few dropped frames here and there which were a little distracting, but nothing major. Obviously it should be perfect, so it’s a shame it isn’t but it’s not something you should become worried about.

Gameplay

The gameplay starts off very simple. As an auto-runner the only thing you begin with is jump. Depending on how long you hold down the button, that will decide how long you stay airborne. You need to manage your jumping lengths very well for the each situation and it’s not uncommon to have to constantly switch between the two in immediate succession.

As you make your way through the first few levels you’ll be gradually introduced to new gameplay mechanics such as the slide which enables you to squeeze under tight spaces, you’ll be introduced to the double jump, trampolines, wall jumps and the kick which will destroy objects in your way. From what starts as a very simple running concept quickly escalates in to something quite a bit more complicated. 

As you run on the mostly linear paths you’ll be collecting gold bars, avoiding obstacles and jumping over gaps; you’ll quickly notice just how much rhythm there is in this game. The music plays a vital part in the whole feel of the game. Collecting gold will ping a sound perfectly in beat with the music going on and jumps are often suspiciously perfect with certain beats too. It won’t be long until you’re bopping your head and feet as well as slamming the buttons stylishly and as funky as possible with the music. This is what really makes the game, getting into a great flow of music while collecting as many (if not all) of the gold in a stage. It feels so good doing it perfectly and smoothly in time with the music.

One of the more interesting aspects of Runner3 are the branching paths which inhabit each level. Choosing these different roads will provide a greater challenge, but also a greater reward. Instead of gold bars you’ll be rewarded with juicy gems. It’s implementation is great as it allows more replay value as you need to complete the level at least once before having access to the gems. And they really are more difficult too and I often found them to be far more fun. 

Sometimes you’ll be asked to switch lanes even when it has nothing to do with the harder paths. Sometimes you’ll have to switch lanes to avoid hazards or road blocks. I feel this mechanic is one of the more ropey aspects of the game. It just feels less smooth than it really should, either a little delayed or just finicky as to when you are allowed to do it. Only a minor point as you’re not doing this often and can easily get by.

As you’re sprinting through levels there are vehicle sections to enjoy. It very much reminds me of the mine cart sections of the DK games but far more speedy and instantaneous. They’re enjoyable because of their variety and spontaneity, they’re dynamic thanks to the camera pans and shift in gameplay. Maybe it’s my fault for coming off the back of Tropical Freeze but I was so used to the heavy sluggishness of those vehicle sections that the twitch nature of this one really threw me off. Not the game’s fault though.

runner3 switch

Interestingly for an auto-runner rhythm game, Runner3 has side quests of sorts. In some of the levels, one of the branching paths will lead you to something funky in need of help. They will require a set of certain items that will be found in other stages. For example one particularly unfortunate couple need some fermented fish for their wedding guests. Yeah, it’s as whacky and as nonsensical as the rest of the game. These will reward you with new characters and they also give nice incentive to play through levels multiple times to pick everything up.

Runner3 is a super difficult game, at least for me. It’s the kind of auto-runner that demands absolute perfection just about. As much joy as this game brought to me, it also gave me a lot of frustration too. Levels are only a couple of minutes long but one false move and it’s game over. With only one checkpoint in each level and so many opportunities to fail, and if you’re like me, fail you will.

It’s all about learning and memorising the layout of each level and, while you can skilfully make your way through plenty of hazards (and feel awesome about it), you’ll definitely have to learn from your previous mistakes of misjudging a jump, not kicking a wall fast enough or running into an enemy. There’s a tonne of trial and error here, plus a tonne of skill too. I’m not sure all of you will be able to stick through it and in my increasing age and ever diminishing reflexes, I often struggled. Even coming off the back of Donkey Kong which I can actually handle fairly well, Runner3 is more difficult. I’m not exaggerating when I say that stage 7 in world 2 took me over 40 tries. Be warned.

Even more difficult than the standard levels are the Retro stages which are unlocked along the way if you’ve accumulated enough gold bars in the various levels. Fiendish isn’t the word. Maybe unholy? Sadistic? Either way, I was genuinely useless at these and could barely make it a few meters in each. Those who want a real challenge will love this.

As another side thing, if you collect a VHS tape in a world, it unlocks the Retro Challenges. These are very different in the fact they are far more like a normal platformer. You can actually control the direction you want Commander Video to go in and jump around at your own pace. These are very stylised and in all honesty that’s all they have going for them. They are probably the weakest part of the game and reminded me so much of Cast of the Seven Godsends but not in a good way. I can see what they were going for, but it just doesn’t work for me, just not polished enough. Thankfully these are more of a side thing and can be ignored.

I would say Runner3 has some very minor issues here and there as mentioned, but for me, the biggest disappointment is the low world count. There are 30 standard levels, plus a final boss, which I don’t mind. It took me a solid 4 hours to see the credits, but I just wish the levels were divided into more worlds to give extra variety to the visuals. With only a food based land, a Halloween themed land and a furnace themed land; it’s lacking variety. While the level count is fine, I feel the world count should have been doubled. That really is a big shame because the art directors really have a lot of imagination that I would love to have seen more. 

Value

Runner3 is not exactly a cheap game. Coming in at $25.49 or £23.79, it’s a premium indie price for an eShop game. I still think it’s packed with enough content and features to say that price is okay, if a little high. I’m sure that most will look at the game and scoff at the price but when you play it and realise all the stuff that’s here, it’s actually not that bad. 4 hours for a standard play through, you could easily double that to get all the gems and collectibles to unlock characters. Plus who knows how many hours trying to master and 100% it. A couple of pounds or dollars cheaper wouldn’t have hurt of course, and it’s worth noting a pre-purchase discount is available on the UK eShop with 15% off. May be worth a look, for sure.

Pros

P

Great soundtrack

P

Whacky beyond belief

P

Excellent, rewarding gameplay

Cons

P

Only 3 worlds

P

Lane switching is a little dodgy