Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review: Runman: Race Around the World.


In 1991, SEGA introduced the world to Sonic, a furry blue hedgehog with an addiction to speed (and not just the drug variety).  The world was blown away by the concept of a speedy platformer, and SEGA overwhelmingly beat out Nintendo during the fiscal year of the game's release.  By 2009, however, Sonic had run clear off of everyone's radar.  His games had become boring and gimicky, and it seemed speedy platformers were forever dead.  No one could have predicted what would happen that Fall, though.  One little star offered a glimmer of hope for the starving genre, and on the 1st of October, Runman: Race Around the World dashed into the scene to revive this dying breed of games.  And, with the collaborative efforts of Matt Thorson and Tom Sennett, it truly became a wonderful piece of electronic entertainment.

This game teaches you some valuable life lessons.
Right from the moment you see the intro screen, you know you're in for a lighthearted, whimsical adventure.  And whimsical it is indeed.  From the vibrant colors of a smiling valley to the welcoming dark blue color of space, the Microsoft Paint aesthetic is incredibly charming, and will never let you stop smiling while you're playing.  It feels like the kind of art a preschooler would draw, and the consistency gives of a wonderful playful aura that makes this game more fun to look at than many triple-A titles on the market.  But the graphics alone aren't what really make this game.  Oh no, far from it.

Even the timer has a mouth in Runman.
 The controls in Runman are really something to marvel.  Z to dash, X to jump, and arrow keys to move around.  Sounds simple enough, and really, as far as control schemes go, it is.  But as with any exceptional game, it's not the arrangement of controls that matters, but how you use them.  Runman starts out in a very happy looking mountainous region, with some tutorial tips and standard stuff you would expect from most games.  Right from the get-go, it's extremely easy to just pick it up and get right into running, and you'll be bouncing off of walls and dashing at the speed of really fast in no time.  However, you'll find that through the course of the game, you'll be having many difficulties mastering and timing every keystroke correctly.  But don't you worry now!  There's a lot of time to get your technique perfected.

Well, that tree certainly doesn't look happy.
The game is split into around 35 levels, which are further organized into 6 "zones," each with its own unique flair.  Runman does a great job with spreading out additions of new obstacles to conquer, and you'll probably find yourself encountering 1 or 2 new interesting level doo-dads in each zone.  Depending on the score you get, combined with the completion time, you're given a medal for your performance in each level.  Gold being the best, and bronze being the worst.  If you find yourself completely bombing a zone, or not getting enough medals in an area, the game lets you revisit old areas to try to beat your best time.  If you really like one of your runs, or you want to see how many times you can beat your personal best, you can save and load "ghosts" - or previous recordings of yourself - and race against them.  You can also download friend's ghosts, if you want to truly see who's the better racer.

Looks like victory ain't gonna come easy for this runner.
The difficulty tends to spike erratically at some points in the game, and you might find yourself bashing your head against the keyboard when you clear an entire zone without a single medal.  Indeed, Runman is a challenging game, but it's challenging in a good way.  There's no consequence for death (except for on boss levels), no demotivational words or messages, and the game gives you constant praise for doing well (with words like "Awesome!" and "Great!" being displayed for pulling off impressive combos or filling up your dash meter).  The developers really did a wonderful job of giving the players incentive to finish every level, and despite some insane difficulty in a couple areas, I was always inspired to keep going.

At the end of each zone, you'll face a boss that fits the theme of the area.  The boss designs are wonderfully creative, but the general idea of all the boss levels is pretty much the same: Run away from them as fast as you can before they catch up to you.  They're basically just regular levels, but with the added pressure of finishing the level before the boss gets you.  You will die many times in these particular encounters, I assure you.  But finishing the level after a slew of tries is always rewarded with a feeling of satisfaction.

Overall, Runman a wonderful game with some great level design, tight controls, and creative aesthetics.  My one gripe with the game would be the erratic spikes in difficulty, but all in all, I think that can be looked past, as this truly is a fantastic free game.  You'd be a fool not to pick this one up, especially when it won't even cost you a dime, but I'd highly recommend you throw some money Matt and Tom's way.  Sonic better watch himself, because there's a new runner in town, and his name is Runman.  Godspeed, little yellow star.  Godspeed.



  1. Why thank you! Probably going to move that SMBX review over here, and then I'll have a brand new one up tomorrow.