There are plenty of racing games out there. So many, in fact, that you’ve got to bring something unique to the table if you hope to succeed. That’s the only real explanation I can give for SpeedRunners’ existence. There are superhero games. There are also racing games. But until these developers started hot-boxing an Oldsmobile, that idea was still mostly untouched. So, I buckled down, put on the Sonic Adventure 2 soundtrack, and prepared for some G’s. With a name like SpeedRunners, you know it’s gotta be fast.
What I Expected
As before, I tried to jump into this game with as little knowledge as possible. That way, I can give the most unbiased review possible. Here, all I could think about were those little flash games where you’re always running to the right, jumping over stuff in your way. A good example is the little game you can play in Google Chrome if your browser can’t load the page. I know you know it. You’re that little T-Rex jumping over cacti and stuff. Well anyway, that’s what I was expecting going into this, except with higher quality and stuff. Maybe powerups. I mean, come on, it better take this to the next level if they expect people to pay for it.
What I Wanted
Honestly, I don’t know what I wanted. I know what I didn’t want, and that’s what I was expecting. I can play countless little running games on my browser. For free! I really didn’t want to waste my time on one of them. I’m not in middle school anymore. So I wanted the game to surprise me. I wanted it to be something entirely different from what I was expecting. However, I still wanted it to involve speed, runners, and the combination of the two.
What I Got
Okay, so it was different from what I was expecting. It’s more of a footrace between superheroes. Unfortunately, it seems all of their powers are “run kinda fast and do wall jumps and stuff.” That’s it. Period. They even range in appearance from a man in all black to a creeper in a shark suit to what has to be a literal deer/human hybrid. Powers of all three: running.
That’s enough about the concept, but what about the gameplay? It was time to find out, so I loaded it up.
Beautiful. All smashed to one corner. Not a great start. However, I realized it could have been my own fault. Perhaps my tablet was off, and the game was doing the best it could to cope. So I closed out the game and pulled up Chrome. Time to troubleshoot.
Okay, so it wasn’t me. Given, this isn’t a really huge error or anything. Just a quick Alt+Enter will immediately pull the game into fullscreen mode. I was just a bit worried from this being the first impression. That would be like showing up to a date with your pants draped across your shoulders. Yeah, all you have to do is slide the pants on to fix it, but you’re probably not going home with your date tonight. Anyway, by now, I had already exhausted half the tracks on my SA2 Soundtrack, so I was beyond ready to get running. After loading the game back up, I realized it automatically skipped the tutorial. I supposed this was because it was technically my second time loading it up. I didn’t mind, though, tutorials are for suckers.
“Tutorials are for suckers,” I said. Out loud. “Let’s light this speed candle!”
I clicked on story mode, read through the two lines of dialog, and watched my opponents sprint to the horizon.
Did I mention I was playing on my tablet? That wasn’t by chance. I noticed the SpeedRunners download size and required specs were low, so I figured it was a perfect game on the go. I was out having coffee when this happened. I watched my character utterly refuse to move while everyone around me watched as I pounded my D key into oblivion. All the while, my arrow keys remained unused. I eventually figured it out and started playing catch-up. Unfortunately, the other keys were also a mystery. I struggled to jump, slide, grapple, and use my items. It wasn’t until I checked out the options when I found them bound to SPACE, Z, X, and C respectively. Horrible. I wasn’t discouraged, though. I bound the keys to my liking and gave it another go.
The keyboard controls can go to hell. Normally, that wouldn’t bother me. Sometimes, a game just calls for a controller. But since I was out and about on my tablet, I was stuck. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of bringing my controller out with me, so it instantly became a game I could only play at home. But whatever. I went home. I installed it on my pc. I dusted off my controller. I had waited long enough! This time, I got to really play it. And you know what? It was fun.
SpeedRunners gives players access to several different courses. Each one has its own hurdles. These range from boxes and overhangs to lasers and spikes. Nothing can kill you, but they sure can slow you down. There are plenty of places to jump, slide, and hook to. Certain ceilings can be grabbed with a grappling hook that can aid in jumping, picking up speed, or changing direction. The goal of each race is to outrun the competition. As each runner falls too far behind, they are eliminated. If a race goes on too long, that red box from above closes in on the runners until only one remains. The first runner to win three times wins the whole shebang.
During the race, players can grab items (Mario-Kart style), and use them against the other players. These power-ups can be a simple box you can drop, an ice beam to freeze enemies ahead, and everything in between. I found the most devastating item to be the golden hook. That grabs the runner in front and propels you forward while flinging them back. Considering that runners are eliminated when falling too far behind, it can completely change a race.
I was determined to play through the entire story. I wanted to make sure I had the full picture of what the game was all about. I use the term “story” loosely. Basically, a different runner challenges the protagonist to a set of races. The first three are against three other racers, but the last is a one-on-one race between the pro- and an- tagonists. After that, the rival switches and the whole process begins again. At the end of each race, points are awarded. After getting enough, new items, courses, and runners are unlocked. I was curious how long this went on. I was taking down rivals left and right. The Moonraker. The Sharksuit Guy. The Deer/Human Hybrid. The Man in the Chicken Costume. The, um, end credits?
I checked my playtime. 2 hours. That was it. There were other difficulties, but what was the point? I figured that perhaps the game was mainly for multiplayer. But before taking that on, I decided to try the other options. That’s where I discovered the game’s secret superpower, ripping players off.
Those are trails. Those appear behind your character while boosting. And they want a dollar for each one. Given, the players who designed the trails get a cut, but you’ve got to be kidding me. That’s worse than hats! At least you wear the hat all the time! Ugh, okay, fine. Moving on. It’s time for the multiplayer. I fully expected to be destroyed here. I mean, these are people who probably spent real money on some of those trails up there. If they cared this much about the game, I didn’t stand a chance. But I had to see for myself. So I made a game, found three other racers, and did my best. After a lackluster race, I came in second place, closed the game out, and uninstalled SpeedRunners from my PC.
Final Verdict: 1.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Xbox One; Publisher: tinyBuild Games ; Developer: DoubleDutch Games; Players: 1 – 4 ; Released: August 26, 2013 ; ESRB: NR ; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of SpeedRunners given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.