When Runbow released for the Wii U back in 2015, we praised it as one of the best games on the platform. Sadly, despite an excellent critical reception, the colourful platformer didn’t reach the audience it could have due to the Wii U’s limited install base.
13AM is aiming to share its opus with a different audience on Nintendo’s portable platform, the New Nintendo 3DS (the original models aren't supported) - but did Runbow survive the transition to the small screen? Mostly.
First, a bit of admin. We've been reviewing the retail Deluxe version of Runbow Pocket, which naturally costs more but comes with all of the game's original DLC. If you’d like to keep a little cash in your pocket you can buy Runbow without that DLC from the 3DS eShop; the DLC itself can then be purchased piecemeal or in a bundle.
Back to the topic at hand, all of Runbow’s single-player content - which is absolutely wonderful - has made the transition intact. All 140-plus levels from the original Adventure mode as well as Bowhemoth mode are crammed into the 3DS version; that's an impressive feat on its own.
When we reviewed the original Runbow two years ago, we described the basics of the game as follows:
Runbow in the most basic of forms is a platformer; the objective is to simply get to the goal by jumping on platforms and overcome chasms and obstacles - yet not everything can be that simple. As any other game in the genre, the levels in Runbow boast an array of different platforms - usually they range from black to all the colours of the rainbow. The catch here is that the background colour will change periodically, and when the colour of the platform matches the background it will instantly disappear.
Those basic facts hold true for Runbow Pocket as well. The game plays exactly the same on 3DS as it does on Wii U, but that isn’t to say no compromises were made in porting the Wii U gem to the more diminutive portable. Nevertheless Adventure mode is still the game’s main attraction for single-player fun, with medals unlocking concept art and characters.
The first and most noticeable change is just how much smaller everything feels on the 3DS screen. It’s an understandable choice, given that the action needs to be zoomed out to a certain degree in order for you to be able to see the obstacles that lie ahead, but the presentation suffers from being on such a cramped space. Character details are hard to pick out, which is a shame because they’re absolutely wonderful.
Speaking of character designs, Runbow Pocket Deluxe also includes all of the guest characters from the Wii U original as well, which adds a nice bit of variety to the colourful roster.
We’ve established that you’re getting the same single player and the same roster from the Wii U version in Runbow Pocket, but there are other differences as well and, sadly, they’re not for the better.
Multiplayer is arguably Runbow’s biggest draw, and it had to be scaled back to work on the New 3DS. Where the original supported up to nine players simultaneously across four modes, this version only supports a maximum of four players in three modes. Run, Arena and King of the Hill all made the cut, but ColourMaster - which made use of the Wii U’s GamePad - didn’t make its way in.
You can still play local multiplayer or online, but the modes feel like they’ve lost some of their charm with so few players compared to the original. We aren’t sure if this is due to a limitation of the New 3DS hardware, but it’s also entirely possible this has more to do with the fact that keeping track of more than four players would be too difficult on the small screen.
There’s a lot to love about Runbow Pocket Deluxe, but it’s clear 13AM had to make some tough concessions to get the game onto the New 3DS. Load times are a bit longer than they were on the Wii U, but the core game is still a wonderful platformer. We feel like this would have been a terrific candidate for a port to the Switch, but the compromises made to bring the game to the New 3DS leave the Wii U version as the definitive edition of Runbow. If portability is more important you’ll absolutely love Runbow Deluxe. Otherwise, we recommend dusting off your GamePad and playing the superior version on the Wii U.