SpeedRun­ners

PC, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper Dou­bleDutch Games Pub­lisher TinyBuild Games For­mat PC, Xbox One Re­lease Out now (PC), TBA (Xbox One)

That ti­tle, it turns out, is a lit­tle mis­lead­ing. Yes, this is a game about run­ning fast, but you’re not rac­ing against the clock. In­stead you must win a footrace against up to three other play­ers. It, like a videogame speedrun, is a test of mem­ory and ex­e­cu­tion, but more so of re­flexes, of be­ing able to think on the fly. Mario Kart- style power-ups – hom­ing mis­siles, rolling bold­ers, crates to drop be­hind you – mean that know­ing the course lay­out is only half the battle.

It’s also a game of snatch­ing vic­tory from the jaws of de­feat, and vice versa. The four of you, whether play­ing lo­cally or on­line, share the same screen real es­tate: as the leader pulls away from the chas­ing pack, their re­ac­tions are tested more and more, since they have less warn­ing of on­com­ing haz­ards. Those at the back will be out of the ac­tion if they fail to keep the pace. As the race pro­gresses, the screen con­tracts, a flash­ing red bor­der en­croach­ing on the run­ners, who’ll com­plete laps un­til one drops out. The last one stand­ing wins the round; the first to win three rounds claims the match.

The ac­tion blends the pre­cise an­i­ma­tion of N+ with the zippy, slip­pery speed of Su­per Meat Boy. It’s a game of mo­men­tum – or, more pre­cisely, of mo­men­tum brought to a shud­der­ing halt by a spike trap you fail to avoid, or a clus­ter of crates you didn’t see com­ing in time. A de­light­ful grap­pling hook is in­tro­duced as a way to avoid haz­ards, but is in fact a ter­rific way of build­ing up speed, gov­erned by a par­lous bal­ance of risk and re­ward. Swing too long and you’ll sail straight up in the air. Get it right and you can give your­self a tremen­dous boost of mo­men­tum while head­ing down a slope, or swing half­way up a wall-jump­ing sec­tion.

Learn­ing the best routes through the multi-storey, multi-path cour­ses is es­sen­tial, and the sin­gle­player cam­paign is struc­tured with that in mind. There are four stages, and you must win a num­ber of matches against AI op­po­nents be­fore a 1v1 race against a boss char­ac­ter. On reg­u­lar dif­fi­culty the game is gen­er­ously ac­com­mo­dat­ing, be­fore crush­ing you on the higher set­tings, where only per­fec­tion will do. Al­ter­na­tively, you can head on­line for a past­ing.

The lat­ter sce­nario would play out, at least, if there was any­one around, but servers are sparsely pop­u­lated – a con­se­quence, per­haps, of be­ing in Early Ac­cess for the best part of three years. A forth­com­ing Xbox One re­lease should see con­sole play­ers right, but the best way to play it is with four play­ers in the same room, cel­e­brat­ing, con­sol­ing and bait­ing one an­other af­ter every hard-fought vic­tory, fluffed jump and pin­point mis­sile shot. Yes, yes, well done – a fine win. Now let’s see you do it again with two dead arms.

Colour-coded and pat­terned scenery helps you recog­nise im­mi­nent haz­ards. A solid white line denotes a grap­ple point; a dot­ted one sig­nals that you need to wall jump. It’s a vi­tal de­sign choice in a game played at such pace

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