Runner3 Review: Die to the Music

by David Sanchez November 26, 2018 @ 8:20 am

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

It’s crazy to think that it’s been five whole years since the release of Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. When that game launched in 2013, it quickly found a spot in my top favorites list. Runner2 was fast, fun, and colorful. Oh, and the music was incredible. Here we are five years later, and developer Choice Provisions is back at it with Runner3, an auto-running game that subscribes more to dastardly difficulty than style. That’s both a blessing and a curse as it’s what makes the series a joy to return to, but it’s also just as much an exercise in frustration.

Runner3 follows the adventures of CommanderVideo and Co. as they travel to cartoon-y lands far and wide. Though there are only three main worlds, you’ll spend about four hours getting to the end. That’s due in large part to the intense level of challenge that each stage presents. Like in Runner2, this sequel is a rhythm-action game, but a lot of times, it seems like the music is secondary as random obstacles that don’t always keep to the beat are thrown your way.

In fact, the music in Runner3 is probably the weakest in the entire Bit.Trip franchise. None of the songs are memorable outside of the couple tunes that returned from previous entries. It’s a shame, especially when you consider how important the music is to these games.

The Bit.Trip games are all about audiovisual bliss. While the music isn’t all that enjoyable in Runner3, the cheery, brightly colored graphics are still a splendor. The game looks good overall, and while it doesn’t capture that ’90s Saturday morning cartoon charm of its predecessor, it still features a solid presentation nonetheless.

If it seems like I’m crapping all over Runner3 — I’m really not — that’s only because I’ve put the previous game atop a towering pedestal. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Runner2 is one of my favorite games of all time. And even though Runner3 doesn’t quite achieve that level of perfection, it’s still a very good game in its own right. If you want a tough-as-heck running man game, look no further, because Runner3 will challenge you, and it will make you feel that awesome sense of accomplishment every time you conquer one of its levels.

Design-wise, Runner3 also does some really neat things. Certain stages toss you into a minecart, airplane, or car, changing the way you play. Sometimes you’ll be running from right to left, which really makes you think differently even though it’s a simple directional alteration. Other times, the camera will shift behind CommanderVideo, giving you a completely different level of control that’s experimental and novel.

There’s also a lot of game here. Don’t let the fact that there are only three worlds fool you — there’s plenty of side stuff to do. Collectible items are tucked away in a lot of the levels. There are alternate routes that up the difficulty even more. Retro-styled levels are also back. There are even “impossible” challenge levels for you to play through.

Sadly, the multiple difficulty settings for each level from the previous game are no longer present. That said, Choice Provisions released an update that coincided with the PlayStation 4 release of Runner3 that allows you to alter how many enemies and checkpoints appear in each level. I still prefer the multiple difficulty settings, but this is a decent option for folks who want to make their game harder or tone down the challenge.

In a landscape that’s filled with awesome, brutal 2D action games like Cuphead, Celeste, and Dead Cells, Runner3 fits right in. It’s not as charming or cheery as Runner2, but it’s not trying to be. This is a fiendish little running platformer that knows its audience. It’s fun most of the time, but damn does it like to kick your butt!

Score: 7 out of 10

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