Speedrunners: Worth Keeping an Eye On

The best way to get someone to buy a game is to have their friends playing it. Speedrunners is entirely one of those games, as I picked it up quickly on sale after watching my friends play on stream. The game is Early Access but I really think it could go somewhere to be an indie darling multiplayer game.

The focus of the game is on multiplayer elimination style races. You have up to four players, and the goal is to be the last person on screen. If you fall off screen, you’re eliminated. Otherwise the game is a fun 2D platformer with a real emphasis on momentum.

I believe you can confidently say the game is about momentum, because many of the powerups and several of the mechanics are all about keeping your momentum or disrupting your opponent’s.

The Boxes powerup lets you drop boxes behind yourself that cause players to stumble and lose their speed. The drill, the bomb, and the shockwave all primarily rob people of their speed. And the Golden Hook is the worst, shooting out to grab a player in front of you and yanking you forward while pulling them back.

Then mechanically, you have the swinging. The swinging in Speedrunners is completely make-or-break for climbing up the leagues in ranked play. You hold a button and your character shoots out a grappling hook that can latch onto white ceilings and let you Spider-man along. Swinging is faster than running… but only for the horizontal portion of the swing. Hold the swing too long and you go from horizontal momentum to vertical momentum, and if that isn’t what you wanted you’re probably hosed.

An enormous part of the game and the memorization of the levels is knowing where to swing, because you can do so much with it, namely completely skipping some wall-jumping segments.

But one of the aspects of Speedrunners that I like the most is that it feels fair to the people who have gotten behind. In Mario Kart, for example, there aren’t really any shortcuts you can take if you’re behind, all you can do is try to drive well and use your powerups wisely.

Speedrunners though usually features shortcuts that can help the person behind get ahead. My favorite example is probably in Theme Park, where at the start of a wall-jumping segment there is a switch that forces people into a longer route…  Unless they are good at swinging. If they are good at swinging the long way actually turns into a shortcut. But if you’re in the lead and you’re faster, you can close that shortcut and force them back onto the main route. And there are many other maps that have what I tend to call “Death or Glory” shortcuts, dangerously small and difficult to hit paths that mean that you can still stay in the race.

The game is in Early Access though, and in some places it shows. I’ve had the game stop recognizing my controller (and then crash), and their netcode could use some work, although it is nowhere near as bad as old-old MechWarrior Online netcode. But then, Speedrunners is still in Early Access, and I actually think the game could go places. It’s fun, it’s fair, it rewards skill, and it produces great moments.

And if you see me in Ranked, beware THE SKULL.

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