Runbow epitomises my love/hate relationship with skill based platformers. Its core mechanic, which sees each levels background constantly shifting colour thus removing matching obstacles and platforms alike, is ingeniously simple and used to great effect. However its precise platforming can be frustrating, and with little narrative and an overly minimalist visual style which lacks personality, the game’s single player appeal is limited.
For lone players, Runbow’s adventure mode provides the meat of the experience with over 140 levels spread across 4 themed worlds. These worlds offer little in terms of aesthetic variety, however new obstacles and mechanics are introduced which sufficiently mix up the gameplay.
With a perfect run, reaching the trophy at the end of each level should take a minute or two, but the game’s longevity lays in its challenge. Simply completing the level is usually manageable but attaining a three star score requires precise knowledge of every jump, colour pattern and enemy location.
Spread out over a grid, beating each level unlocks two more adjacent levels allowing some flexibility in the order in which you tackle them. I did however find myself locked between two challenging levels several times, forcing me to play one of them countless times until I finally prevailed. This type of challenge which forces you to “get good” was occasionally rewarding but often frustrating, although of course certain players will undoubtedly revel in this challenge.
While not on the same level of difficulty as a game like Super Meat Boy, Runbow presents a considerable challenge. For high score obsessives and lovers of skill based platformers this game is probably ideal, however my puzzle and story-based sensibilities are more suited to the likes of Inside and Oxenfree.
The game’s instant restart feature makes its one-more-go gameplay utterly compulsive, and although the occasional cheap death can cause frustration, when you hit your stride in a level you can sail through it with style.
Unlockable skins including characters from other platformers like Shovel Knight and Guacamelee along with an art gallery and a varied trophy list add another level of reward beyond high scores and completion.
For sadists that really want a challenge, the Bowhemoth, a continuous gauntlet set in a monsters belly, provides the game’s most punishing and rewarding mode. A trio of multiplayer focused modes, playable either locally or online, flesh out the rest of the experience.
Online modes, which pit up to 4 players locally and up to 9 players online against one another, include Run; a race to the trophy, Arena; a last one alive death race, and King of the Hill: a battle for a single control point.
Runbow’s colour changing mechanic works perfectly and its tight, precise platforming is often satisfying although occasionally infuriating. A lengthy single player adventure combined with Bowhemoth’s gauntlet and challenging high scores and unlockables provides well over 10+ hours of content for lone players.
However its the local and online multiplayer modes that really give this game life, whether as a hectic party game with friends or an online battle against strangers. Despite its shortcomings in terms of aesthetic, narrative and occasionally level design, Runbow is ultimately a thoroughly enjoyable game, one perfectly suited to those compelled to ace every level, attain every unlockable and put every one of their friends to shame.
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Reviewed using base PS4.