A game that is good even if you aren’t good at it, Nicalis runs rampant with Runner3. But is it more of a sprint or a marathon?
Developer: Choice Provisions
Platform: Nintendo Switch (version reviewed), PC
Release Date: May 22, 2018
Jump. Double jump. Ground pound. Four quick jumps. CRASH. Damnit. Jump. Double jump. Ground pou–CRASH. I swear if I fail one more time. Jump. Double ju–CRASH. COME ON! What you witness here is an accurate representation of my experience with Runner3 from Choice Provisions and Nicalis. It’s a game that led me to curse in front of my children as I reached my 30th try of the fourth level.
I’ve always admired the Runner games and their ability to master the rhythm-music platformer genre. I owned and played Bit.Trip Runner and Runner2, but finished neither. It’s more of a game I appreciate than obsess over. I think the problem is that I’m not as good as I want to be at playing these types of games. Something is always failing me. It could be many things that confound me; my memory of what comes next, the ability to complete a complex string of jumps, slides and maneuvers, or simply the unknown part of a level that comes after a portion that I found difficult.
Yet, I persist. I keep trying. And though it might take me longer, I eventually get through the level (albeit without all the gold). And that is what Runner3 is to me. It’s a gorgeous, rhythmic, difficult, unforgiving, persistent train that has inadvertently led me to teach my kids more four-letter words than I’m willing to admit.
Runner3 on the Nintendo Switch is really a great game. The colorful visuals complement the system’s hardware quite well. It’s a bright game at some moments, and it’s dark and eerie at others. No matter the locale, there’s a lot happening on the screen at once. To not have one hiccup in gameplay is something I’m happy about. Every maneuver you make in each level serves as an exclamation to the beats of Runner3′s soundtrack.
Make no mistake; the music and sound effects are infectious. Even to someone like me that struggled mightily with every single level, I never got tired of the reaffirming bleeps that let me know I hit a right move. Or as the soundtrack fills and swells up as you’re almost done with a level (and you’ve collected those radios). It’s all very rewarding.
The level design adds a lot to replay value. Completionists won’t get everything from beating a level once. There are branching paths that lead you to quest givers, coins and gems (once you beat a level). You’ll have to beat a level two to three times to get all of the coins and gems.
The levels of the three worlds (which I haven’t beaten, as I’m stuck on the first level of the third world) offer a good variety. You’ll have to master all of your moves (jump, double jump, ground pound, wall springs, all introduced one by one) to make it through. There are also vehicle portions to the levels that’ll see you in planes and minecarts, for instance.
Boss fights provide a nice change of gameplay. You’ll break from the regular Runner platforming and switch to something completely different. The first boss you fight is a giant robot Santa obsessed with sausages. You take control of a cannon, slide left and right to avoid missiles, jump over gaps, and collect sausages falling from the sky to turn into ammo and shoot at him.
If all of this is not enough replay value, there are retro levels that up the difficulty. You unlock these simply by playing through the main levels and collecting enough gold to gain access. I tried a couple… no bueno. They’re fun and change both the look and way you play, but damn did I struggle. The first one I tried was the very first one you gain access to.
It’s like something out of the Outrun subreddit (80s synthwave music). It’s like the Runner3 level equivalent to that 80s art that every startup Twitch channel and gaming website uses. Later, there are retro levels that give you free movement and classic platformer controls.
Furthermore, the completionist has even more to do. There are new characters to unlock and an item shop to buy customization items with gems and Gildan coins (found in the retro games). So if you want to wear a monocle and mustache, you better replay levels for gems.
I only really have a couple of gripes with Runner3. For someone whose skill level with these types of games isn’t terribly high (yet enjoys these games anyway), it brought me to points where I wanted to quit. Playing a portion of a level repeatedly, while it provides a sense of accomplishment when I do beat it, is a giant weight of anxiety.
My kids wanted to play the game, and they quickly lost interest when they couldn’t get halfway through the first level. If a particular section gave me extra trouble, I found myself mad when I’d beat it only to quickly hit an object immediately afterward. I feel that there should be an option for multiple checkpoints (for those of lesser skill like myself). Even Cuphead adjusted the difficulty for those that still wanted to experience the game.
Another thing that bothered me were moments that I felt were designed to hand you a defeat. There are times when things are breaking, or a pole is at the forefront of the screen blocking a lip you need to jump over. Some of the obstacles and ground I found to be too similar early on to determine when I needed to jump. I eventually got used to it, but it was still frustrating. I praised how gorgeous Runner3 is with so much happening on the screen, but sometimes it was working against me. Also, don’t try to pick up a level mid-way or after having the game paused… it messed me up big time. I apparently need to get into a groove.
Even though I found Runner3 to be frustrating and difficult, it was a healthy frustration. I could feel myself learning a level. Noticing my persistence and gumption was reward enough. Though crossing the finish line each level was nice too. Runner3 builds off of what came before it. It’s an incredibly polished game. I can’t think of a runner that does it better than Runner3.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.