SpeedRunner HD (Corrected Review)

SpeedRunner HD is a port of a free Flash-based web game that you can play here.  Last month when I interviewed the developers of it, I noted that the web version was glitchy and difficult to control.  Assured that these problems would be fixed for the Xbox Live Indie Game port, I actually looked forward to SpeedRunner HD.  Why not?  The game feels like a video game version of a never-before-released Amalgam Comic starring a cross between The Flash and Spider-Man.

Excuse me a moment while I adjust my coke-bottle glasses and pocket protector.

Playing as the Spider-Flash dude, you have to run through eighteen levels at break-neck speeds.  Along the way, you’ll have to double-jump across pits, swing across gaps, avoid running into boxes that slow you down, and as always dodge spikes.

You know, I think the spike is the truly unsung villain of gaming.  It makes me wonder why real life criminals don’t make use of them more often.  If you’re planning on robbing a bank, make sure you have plenty of pointy spikes lying around.  Of course, any cop that possess a double jump will still be a threat, but it should at least buy you some time.  Just make sure you have a double jump in your arsenal as well, unless you plan on escaping through a window or something.  Then again, the police will likely make use of spikes as well and place them outside of any point of escape.  This will lead to the inevitable Mexican stand-off where everyone has a gun in both hands and spikes surrounding them on all sides.  I hear this is the basis of John Woo’s next flick.

And of course, school spikings will replace school shootings.  The bell to end the day will sound and kids will open the doors to the classrooms only to find that entire hallways are now lined with spikes.  Just to be fair, the perpetrators will no doubt suspend platforms about four feet above the spikes, but this will still lead to a national tragedy.  Especially when the asthmatic kid who always got to sit out gym class has to start to cross the hall.  Candle light vigils will follow, while the NRA will book a meeting in the town the following week to assure people that they still have the right to bare spikes and should continue to use them for self-defense.  And let’s not forget using them for hunting as well.  After all, if people didn’t spike hunt, Italian plumbers could become dangerously overpopulated.  Meanwhile, the ESRB will give any video game containing spikes an automatic M ratings in response to the crisis.

Where was I?

Ah yes, SpeedRunner HD.  So did they fix the problems of the web version?  Yes.  Mostly.  Controlling it with a game pad instead of a keyboard makes a huge difference.  Jumping especially is much easier.  But I found the controls to still be problematic.  The dude runs really fast (hence the name), but making precision turns is difficult because the guy really has an issue with slowing down.  This isn’t much of a problem in the normal stages of the game that are lifted from the web version.

However, in the bonus stages the game really gets tricky with some of its platforming elements.  When the guy jumps he wants to roll through every single damn one of them.  But sometimes this leads to you not being able to use your double jump.  Thus, when trying to clear larger gaps that feature smaller platforms, the dude just doesn’t cooperate and you end up in spiky failure.

My biggest issues came from the button mapping.  You jump with A, which is what A should be used for.  But your grappling hook is mapped to X, and this is not a convenient location for it.  It should have been on right trigger, but that is needlessly wasted by giving you the option to boost with either trigger button in the multiplayer mode.  There’s also no option to customize the button layout.  At least in my case, this made the game uncomfortable to handle.

The main stages are too easy and too short.  I took me about fifteen minutes to clear all those boards.  The six bonus stages are much trickier, but not so much that they add any significant value to the game.  There’s not enough of them.  This is a game that costs 240MSP but feels in every way possible like an 80MSP title.  There’s just not enough single-player content to justify the price.

As I mentioned, there is a four player local-only multiplayer mode.  It’s actually pretty good.  Have you ever played a scrolling game where someone lags behind and holds everybody else up, like New Super Mario Bros. Wii for example?  In SpeedRunner HD‘s multiplayer, the object of the game is actually to do just that: run as fast as you can and make the screen scroll past everyone else.  It’s a novel concept and it sort of works.

When I previously posted the review for this game, I was under the mistaken impression that it only had one multiplayer map.  In fact, the game has five.  I also only played the game with one other player.  After I pulled the review, I decided I might as well try to make up for my huge blunder by playing this with the full monty of players.  I wasn’t surprised to find out that it makes a difference.  What did surprise me was how much fun Speedrunner HD can be when played this way.  Especially once the other players got the hang of the control scheme and the weapons.

But, and this is a big but (I cannot lie, you other brothers can’t deny.. sorry), my suspicions about the player who actually owns the game having an unbreakable advantage over everyone else were spot on.  I was absolutely slaying the other three saps I talked into playing with me, all of whom were regular gamers.  And so I feel safe in saying that SpeedRunner‘s fairness will be limited to games involving all first-time players.  Alternatively, I suppose four experienced players would also work, but the odds on such a thing happening are likely only slightly greater than being struck by lightning while holding a jackpot-winning lottery ticket.

While multiplayer is potentially fun, I still can’t give a recommendation to SpeedRunner HD.  It has less than an hour of single-player content and there’s too many issues with controls.  I still feel it’s overpriced at 240MSP, as it’s competing directly with its own free web-based game.  So option A is I can play the game  (albeit buggier) for free, or option B is I can pay $3 for six extra single player levels and a pretty decent multiplayer mode that will never get used.  Picture me sarcastically using my hands as scales right now.  Honestly, I don’t think it’s worth it.  Online multiplayer might have made a huge difference, but people look at me as if I just menstruated in the holy water at church every time I bring that up.

SpeedRunner HD was developed by DoubleDutch Games

240 Microsoft Points have a permit to carry a concealed spike in the making of this review.

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About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

4 Responses to SpeedRunner HD (Corrected Review)

  1. Pingback: Indie Games Summer Uprising Update « Xbox Indie News and Reviews

  2. Pingback: A Public Apology to DoubleDutch Games « Indie Gamer Chick

  3. ilRadd says:

    Please don’t menstruate in the holy water at church – that will just get the whole 2012 end-of-the-world throng started again…

  4. Pingback: The Cusp: 2011 Indie Summer Uprising Retrospective « Indie Gamer Chick

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