Several years ago, the concept of "speedrunning" a video game took centre stage in the video game community thanks to the Awesome Games Done Quick charity event, which featured speedrunning gamers blitzing through the game as fast as possible. Interest in this type of concept exploded, and DoubleDutch Games' Speedrunner HD is all that and more rolled into one neat little competitive indie game package. What you have is the ability to literally speedrun in game, almost like a 2D sidescrolling Mario Kart. But is it actually any fun? Well, lets find out.
What started off as a browser game for Maxgames.com with a peak of 7 million users, Speedrunner HD has gone on to become a success in its own right after developers Casper and Gert-Jan decided it was time to try their luck on the Xbox Live Market. After a successful release on Xbox Live, the final challenge has come in the form of releasing the game on the Steam market.
Speedrunner HD is a 2D side scrolling multiplayer racer, where the players get to control a one of the many available speedsters and compete for glory. It's fast paced, aggressive and much like other contemporary racers such as Mario Kart, it's good fun when you can screw your mate over with a power up. Players have a multitude of ways of getting around the course, from using their grapple hooks to get over obstacles to running up walls and wall jumping. While it takes sometime to master, once you get the hang of it the game feels far more intense and enjoyable. You'll find yourself grinding out practice runs when you find your sweet spot. Power ups in Speedrunner HD have a Mario Kart style random system, whereby players pick up boxes that generate a power up for the player to be used at any time which includes the likes of drills or frost bombs. All these things combine to make a highly competitive, addictive experience for speed freaks.
Multiple levels with a variety of layouts keep the game fresh, with enough to play through without feeling bored in the first couple of hours. Because of it's pixel graphics, the simple art style lends itself to being clear and easily readable. I never felt like I couldn't see where I was going in each course which is great, because blurry or ambiguous map layouts are a pet peeve. It's good to see developers care about the game enough to understand what makes a good level, what keeps a player engaged versus just throwing something together to hit a quota.
In terms of art, Speedrunner HD has a pretty simplistic approach to the presentation, but that's not a bad thing. In fact I enjoy it, everything is clear and the colours bright and vibrant. Everything is so clear, the animations wonderfully put together and are smooth. You can tell that a lot of time and effort has gone into the effect animations and it really shows, the experience is memorable and really drives you forward, hungry for more action.
Music is absolutely heart pumping, it really sets the tone of the game. The wailing guitars in the background that build up the intensity, with the mix of keys and various horns fill out the empty spaces. The music fits in perfectly as a result, although at some point you'll start to forget the music is there in the first place because you'll be concentrating far more on what you're doing as opposed to what you're listening to. Sound design and effects are bright and clear, being noticeable to the human ear. This is important because audio feedback when picking up special power ups means more information for the player to make their play in the game.
Now the big one, it's a multiplayer game, so is it a good multiplayer game? I'd say yes, it's great to play with friends and even better to play with enemies. The potential for just absolutely wrecking people in the most heinous of ways is quite the appeal in and of itself. Nothing like being behind then launching a rocket at a mate sitting right next to you, just pray they don't throw their controller at you in a fit of rage. The multiplayer gameplay is smooth and responsive, controls are excellent. I'm immensely impressed with how the game responds, even with my DualShock4 controller plugged into my computer via bluetooth. Once you get the hang of this game, you'll be shredding randoms on the internet and in real life with the biggest shit eating grin on your face. Good show.
So Speedrunner HD is a good game right? Wrong, it's a GREAT game. Having played this before the Steam release I've always enjoyed the game. But now we have it on Steam which opens up the player pool, which means more randoms to drop rockets on. If you love highly polished pixel art and competitive racing, do it. Pull the trigger on your Steam account and buy SpeedRunners. It's got infinite replayability and makes for an excellent time waster, a great time waster at that.