I’ve always been what you might call ‘musically retarded’. It’s not that I don’t appreciated music, it’s just that I suffer from a condition known as ‘stupid fingers’, where my brain and flailing extremities don’t always cooperate. So when I took up the challenge to play and master a rhythm-based game I was a little wary. However, after a few hours with Runner 2, my keyboard transformed into my piano, and I had unknowingly learnt a new instrument.
Runner 2 is a game of music and perseverance. By the end of the game I finally understood how those smug music kids felt when they first strung together ‘Three Blind Mice’ on the keyboard. Explaining why Runner 2 works so well is no easy task. When my girlfriend walked in on me playing Runner 2 and exclaimed that it ‘may as well be an iPhone game’, I burst into a rant in praise of the title. I don’t think she got the message, so let me try again …
The protagonist of Runner 2 stars an alien-like fellow expertly named Commander Video. Endlessly running towards the goal, you will hop, slide, dive, kick and throw in the obligatory dance move through a series of obstacles to an upbeat chiptune soundtrack. Like learning an instrument, early stages focus on base skills creating the groundwork for the rest of the game. It’s an Indie game that withholds from pretentiously forcing any symbolism or life lessons on you; it is artistically combining music, gameplay and visuals to create a new way to experience gameplay.
What makes Runner 2 so satisfying is that every action in the game is synced to the soundtrack. Nailing jumps, slides and kicks adds a note to the music. By collecting all the gold bars and plus symbols along the way, the soundtrack builds, rewarding you with the full crescendo. Sure, you can miss the collectibles along the way but that would be like depriving Bob Dylan of his guitar, leaving you with an awkward moaning mess of a song.
As the levels progress, Runner 2 starts relentlessly throwing every possible technique your way, making each successfully avoided obstacle ring with a note of satisfying success. Fail, and you are flung back to the start of the level or an optional mid-level checkpoint. Runner 2 can look intimidatingly difficult at times, but when your new found musical muscle memory kicks in, you will feel like you’ve pulled off a guitar solo worthy of Guns and Roses.
With a total of five distinct worlds, from a forest named The Supernature to the fiery pits of the Mounting Sadds, Runner 2 has enough personality to breathe some life into Master Chief. While you’ll mainly focus on the enemies and walls flying your way, an occasional glance at the ludicrously upbeat backgrounds will offer up some occasional laughs. While Runner 2 lays out the bare bones of what resembles a story, there is no real reason to pay it any attention beyond the fact that the voice of Mario, Charles Martinet, narrates it.
If you’re a fan of Gaijin Games Bit.Trip series, you may have noticed Runner 2 looks a little different, however, this new look doesn’t necessarily mean a new feel. This time around, the charmingly retro-inspired visuals of the first Runner have been replaced by a more mainstream visual reinvention. While its flair may be a little different to what fans are used to, the charming backgrounds quickly spring to life. The pleasantly varied settings also take nostalgic inspiration from games such as Super Mario World. The bouncing curved mountains, colourful faces and distinct settings come alive with the music, often outdoing the games they are referencing.
Runner 2’s optional paths, difficulty settings, online leader boards and secret areas all build on its predecessor, making the game a lot more accessible and leaving the level of difficulty up to the player. I didn’t purposely crash to replay a stage and take an alternate path out of obligation – I simply felt the need to push myself further, to explore every intricacy in the Runner 2 universe and ensure my song was complete. The levels and music became mine to control and mine to master.
Runner 2 was able to transfix me. My eyes would glaze over, my ears would open and the beat of the song would allow me to intuitively slip by every obstacle. Learning a new instrument is never easy, especially for someone like me who was told to ‘mime’ the words while singing in the school choir because I was throwing the other kids off (thanks for crushing my singing aspirations Mrs. Tilden). But through practice and perseverance I was able to become so instinctively good that I was often in awe of my own skills. I’m just that good.
- Reviewed On