Runbow (Switch eShop) Review
My first experience with Runbow was with the Wii U version years ago following a heavy discount on the eShop. Initially, I was enamoured with its bold sense of multicoloured style and bite-sized levels. However, Runbow quickly lost my attention among a suite of other releases. Now with a fresh release on current-gen platforms, including the Switch, Runbow has a second chance to capture my limited gaming time.
Living up to its rainbow-inspired title, Runbow is a painter’s palette of colours of varying shades and intensities, which directly feeds into the game’s main hook. Runbow is a 2D competitive platformer where the platforms and obstacles are coloured according to a swatch for each level. Regularly, the level’s background colour changes which corresponds to these various obstacles. When the background colour and the obstacle colour match, the obstacle disappears momentarily, until the colour changes once more. During this time, you can take shortcuts that previously didn’t exist, or a platform that was once a safe haven will now leave you grasping at thin air and falling to your doom.
This premise of balancing the risk and reward of coordinating colours en route to the goal is a constant in Runbow across its many game modes. Many of these modes can be played either solo or with up to four local players or nine online players. There’s a campaign mode which pits you against the black and white femme fatale, serving as the thin veneer of plot required to push you through a series of levels until the obligatory boss encounters. Each level generates enough variety to escape multicoloured monotony, such as different obstacles to overcome or unique ways to use colour to your advantage. One level saw me hurriedly dodging multicoloured spikes by waiting until the last moment when the spikes matched the background, falling harmlessly on my tuxedo-sporting character. Runbow is well-suited to short bursts of play, with each level quite short in duration, making it easy to play a bunch of levels in one go and come back to the rest later.
In addition to the main story, one of Runbow’s highlights is the Bowhemoth mode. This variation sees your characters eaten by a massive beast, and you’re tasked with escaping through the many levels of its innards. The catch? No saves, no checkpoints, no breaks – nada. You have to slog your way through the Bowhemoth in the one sitting. Dying is okay, as it will respawn your character at the start of the room you perished in. However, every death will be counted, contributing towards the final leaderboard tallying your time taken and number of deaths, offering an incentive to return and beat your previous efforts.
Runbow is positioned primarily as a couch multiplayer game, with both the campaign and Bowhemoth modes playable with friends, and a variety of customisable standalone multiplayer options on offer as well. I also tried out the online multiplayer, but was faced with lag issues, sucking the fun out of the experience. However, local multiplayer is where Runbow excels as a platform racer mixed with some light combat. Levels become a hectic race to the end goal, with players’ characters punching and activating power-ups in an effort to claw each other down to gain ascendancy. On the flip side, playing Runbow solo almost taunts you at the beginning of each level with eight vacant starting positions as if to say “just imagine how much more fun you could have if you managed the near-impossible adult task of coordinating friends to come over and play!” Fortunately, Runbow is still a reasonably fun time sans friends, but multiplayer is where you’ll get the most mileage.
Considering Runbow first came out in 2015, I am surprised the digital version comes minus the DLC, Satura’s Space Adventure, which is instead sold separately on the eShop. To my knowledge, the upcoming physical version comes packed with the DLC, but to not bundle this as a digital “definitive edition” like many other games on the ever-expanding Switch library seems an odd choice.
Additionally, with such a heavy focus on colour, Runbow may be ill-suited to some people with colour blindness. Many of the multiplayer modes offer you the chance to pick from a colour palette, which I imagine would alleviate the difficulty associated with identifying specific colours. 13AM Games, the Runbow developers, addressed colour blindness in an interview back in 2015, stating they had chosen specific colours to be as accessible as possible. If you’re unsure, it might be worth looking up some gameplay footage prior to purchasing.
Unfortunately, Runbow on the Switch crashed a few times during my play sessions, requiring a restart on more than one occasion. Based on my experience, I can’t tell you if there’s any post-story content after what I think is the final boss, as each time I beat the boss and watched the resulting cutscene, the game crashed. Other than this, performance felt fine, but it was frustrating to not have officially “completed” the campaign despite having done so multiple times.
Runbow is an excellent local multiplayer experience, packed with plenty of game modes and content. Solo players will miss out on the best Runbow has to offer, and I encountered some crashes along the way, but definitely consider this for your upcoming games night with friends.
+ Great multiplayer action
+ Slick, colourful presentation
+ Heaps of content…
- Single player feels slightly hollow after playing multiplayer
- Several crashes
- ...despite the digital version not including the DLC