One couch might not be enough to fit all the people able to play in a new independent release that has the potential to be one of the best multiplayer games on the Wii U.
Runbow is a Wii U-exclusive downloadable game developed and published by 13AM Games, a small Toronto-based independent studio with nine members.
The game released Thursday for $14.99 on the eShop. Those that downloaded the Nindies@Home demo version of Runbow during E3 week get a 15 percent discount until Sept. 27.
Runbow is a competitive party platformer game where up to nine players face each other with the goal of beating your opponents in a race to the end of a level through speed, combat and sheer luck.
A colorful visual palette is constantly changing in the background of the game’s 2D world. This core mechanic impacts gameplay, changing how each player will keep running and fighting towards the finish line. When the background becomes the same color as a platform or other object, it disappears, is replaced with a different colored section and alters the stage’s design.
Up to nine people can join Runbow for local multiplayer, one of the few games to support so many players. How is this possible on one system? Runbow uses several of Nintendo’s peripherals like the Wii U GamePad, Wii U Pro Controllers, Wii Classic Controllers, Wiimotes and Nunchuks. Each classic controller is tethered to a Wii Remote that allows for the additional players. The GamePad can also do full Off-TV play on the controller.
Runbow has six playable modes. Run mode is the game’s core style, a frantic race to the finish line to collect a trophy. Arena is Super Smash Bros.-style combat against the other players. In King of the Hill players try to maintain control of a small area on the stage. ColourMaster mode has all the other players going against the person using the GamePad. The GamePad player can switch the background colors, create obstacles and drop bombs to stop the other players from reaching the level’s end.
Even though it’s a party, Runbow is still focused on a single-player experience. Adventure mode is Runbow’s story, filled with 145 time-based objective stages where players unlock medals based on their performance. A challenge mode called “The Bowhemoth” must be finished in one playthough that could last longer than 30 minutes with no save points. The mode continually throws new stages and hurdles at the player while keeping track of deaths. These modes can be played both in single-player and co-op.
Gameplay is simple to pick-up with only a few buttons used. Characters have attacks and abilities like punches, uppercuts and jumping combinations. Power-ups across the stage can impact gameplay, like giving a speed boost to a player. There are two playable characters from the start named Hue and Val whose color and outfit can be changed in a variety of ways. Runbow’s difficulty ranges from basic to extremely hard across all its game modes, creating a lot of replayability.
The game also supports online play for the Run, Arena and King of the Hill modes in public and private matches.
There are plenty of unlockables, ranging from new characters to different costumes like pirates, ninjas and police outfits. The game boasts more than 140 challenges. The in-game achievement system called “Records,” unlocks in many ways like beating campaign stages, winning matches a certain way or playing a ton of multiplayer games. Medals gained from Adventure mode unlock concepts in an art gallery.
Runbow brings together other independent creators under its umbrella. It features several guest appearances of characters from other indie games like the Shovel Knight, Rusty from SteamWorld Dig, Juan Tostada from Guacamelee!, CommanderVideo and CommanderGirlVideo from the Bit.Trip series, Gunvolt from Azure Striker Gunvolt, Clone from Stealth Inc, the Scram Kitty, ARID from The Fall, Max from Mutant Mudds and many more. These characters are just skins and don’t have their own attacks or abilities. In total there are 17 unlockable guest characters.
Runbow’s graphical style is based on 1960s poster art and also inspired by iconic graphic designer Saul Bass. The game’s official soundtrack is for sale, featuring a mix of colorful musical styles matching the game’s artistic visuals. The music was created by Dan Rodrigues, a Toronto-based composer and Dave Proctor, the producer at 13AM Games.
Development of Runbow started as a prototype in January 2014 at the Toronto Global Game Jam that evolved into a full game. 13AM Games created Runbow using the Unity engine and is the studio’s first release. The group chose the Wii U in large part because of Nintendo and its support of the studio’s vision.
While there could be hesitation over releasing a game as a Wii-U exclusive considering the console’s various struggles, the team chose Nintendo’s system for its ability to make this massive local multiplayer experience possible. The studio also developed for the Wii U so players didn’t have to buy so many more controllers, figuring people still had them from their time with the Wii. Nintendo has also been supportive of the project, promoting the game and connecting the studio with other independent developers featured in Runbow.
“We wanted to make Runbow a huge multiplayer experience, something the size of which we had never seen,” the studio said. “It didn’t hurt that Nintendo immediately loved the game and has been incredibly supportive of us since day one.”
When we go to parties it’s always the Wii U that’s out entertaining everyone. People that have the console know that it has the software that brings people together and makes them laugh. Since this is the experience we want for Runbow, it seemed a pretty natural fit.”
Watch the game’s launch trailer: