My main takeaway from Runner3 was its difficulty. The series has had no shortage of difficulty in the past, but Runner3 piles on the difficulty earlier and heavier than previous games. Those craving fifty or maybe even a hundred deaths before completing a 90-second level will be thrilled with Runner3. It’s not as exciting for those of us who don’t find excessive frustration fun, however. There’s so much great content in Runner3; it’s a shame the difficulty detracts from so much of it.
In Runner3, Commander Video is back for another music-platforming adventure with a diverse set of characters and levels. I loved the presentation of the game: for example, the story is partially told through charming and quirky puppet shows. It’s not a complex tale, but it was enough to give me a smile. I really enjoyed the visuals of the levels. There was a breadth of environments and really creative ways that they were pictured. Some environments were pretty… strange. There was an ample number of big-eyed fish, protruding body parts, and other weird stuff to keep you entertained. Unfortunately, for most of the game, I was too busy trying not to die to pay attention to the crazy stuff happening in the background.
The difficulty makes the platforming far more inaccessible than it otherwise would be. Each level has just a single checkpoint. With pretty long levels, this meant that I would need to keep up absolute perfection for extended periods of time, as suffering just a single hit is enough to take you back to the beginning of the level or to the checkpoint. There’s no margin for error here.
I’m no professional gamer, but I have played my fair share of platformers and rhythm games. That ultimately meant nothing when it came to Runner3. I was still dying dozens of times in each level, often times getting to the point where I wanted to throw a controller. For me, it seemed like the difficulty was just a method to artificially inflate the playtime. It’s unfortunate because I think the game has enough content as it is.
Ironically enough, the game does have a ton of options available if you want to make your playthrough even more challenging. You can choose to skip checkpoints altogether, raising the stakes for your run. You can also attempt to pick up all the collectibles, including new gems available on your second run through a level. There’s a leaderboard (I’m still first on level 4-2!) to give you recognition if you go for gold, a shop to purchase new costumes with your findings, and extra levels to unlock. The game has no shortage of material, and the truly sadistic will love the experience.
Given that the game already has options for those craving a more difficult time, it perplexes me why there isn’t an option to use more checkpoints or to take a second hit. Of course, every developer can choose what features they will ultimately have available for players, but if a 90-second level is getting drawn out to half an hour, some of us may not appreciate or enjoy seeing that time burn up in the air. The difficulty curve is strange too. The game already picks up the difficulty in the first world, but as a result, the second world felt easier. Maybe I just got better at playing the game as I went through it, but it seemed strange that later levels would frustrate me less than the earlier ones.
The game has really cool retro challenges, though. They are shorter than the main levels and give you a few hits before sending you back to the beginning. Rather than basing these levels on 8-bit or 16-bit style, the developers took inspiration from the “classic works of Friz Freleng and Hanna-Barbera.” Not only are they a refreshing break from the regular levels, but they provide a nice opportunity to relax.
Ultimately, if the difficulty doesn’t bother you, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Runner3. The levels are zany, while their designs are compelling. There are a ton of collectibles to find and characters to unlock. Unfortunately, not everyone will feel the difficulty warranted or appreciate it equally. For me, it felt like the game did not respect my time. It was frustrating to die so frequently after playing through a chunk of a level perfectly. Your enjoyment of the game will likely correlate to your love for in-game death, which is unfortunate given that games should provide more options and accessibility to players, not a wall of difficulty.
Eli buys virtually every Nintendo title that comes out but has expanded his collection to include amiibo. He hasn’t taken them out of their boxes, though, so he might be a bit insane. When not playing video games, Eli likes writing about politics and games. He also runs a decent amount. Outside.