Run cosmonaut, run
Speedrunners is a game that I’ve wanted for years. That’s not to say it’s been in development for years, but the basic premise is something I’ce come back to time and again when considering what I want from a multiplayer game. There is some violence, but it’s extremely limited – the focus is on being faster than everyone else. Speedrunners is a purely multiplayer game for up to 4 players in which you run around a 2D level jumping, swinging from a grappling hook, bouncing off walls and sliding under obstacles while using the odd gadget to get yourself ahead. It reverts back to the primal fun that’s at the heart of Mario Kart, you just want to be fastest and no matter your skill level there’s a chance you could be the one to win.
The way it works is that four players start off running after a countdown and in Micro-Machines style if you fall off the edge of the screen for being too slow you’re out. The race continues until one person is left, then that person gets a point and you all start again from where the last race ended. Once a player gets three points they win overall. Traversing the level involves wall-jumping, dodging crates and, in the later levels, avoiding spikes and spinning blades. Some of the powerups include mines, boxes to drop and slow people and an incredibly powerful grappling hook that attaches to the person in front and pulls them back and you forwards, equalising your positions. This is the blue shell of the game, what powerup you get is random, but a grappling hook can completely change the outcome of a race. There’s also a boost meter filled my running through blue strips that can be used whenever you want for an incredible burst of speed.
At the moment Speedrunners is in early-access on Steam and there’s currently just four characters to pick from and four levels. Once you know the levels well it becomes much easier, as anyone new will fall to numerous spike traps in the last couple while you’ll pre-emptively jump to avoid them. If you’re ahead the game does a good job of balancing things out by restricting your vision immensely. If you’re at the very front you have very little warning about what’s coming up so it currently all comes down to memory.
The graphics are basic but effective with bright colours and smooth animation allowing you to focus on your movements and the level around you. The menu system is incredibly broken at the moment, allowing you to pick options that you can’t see and not doing a good job of explaining how to start a game (you all need to select and confirm your character). At least the developers are keeping in touch with the community and updating the game fairly regularly.
Speedrunners is a lot of fun already, even in this early form, but what’s important is that there is a foundation for a new kind of game here. It’s not all about shooting, but it’s not as technical as a driving game either, it’s more about keeping calm under pressure and simply outperforming your opponents, while looking all kinds of awesome in the process. If you’re interested in the game it’s available on Early Access here for £6.99.