In the words of the late Satoru Iwata - "Above all, video games are meant to just be one thing: Fun for everyone". Runbow embraces this philosophy and runs away with it. The result is a game that is simple in concept and execution, yet it radiates personality from every shade of its palette. In short, Runbow is easily one of the best Wii U games of 2015, one with which you shouldn't think twice about calling your friends over to have a great time.
Developed by the Toronto-based 13AM Games, Runbow doesn't hesitate to let the player know they're in for a treat. It's a game unlike any other, and the loading screen embraces its unique charm as a rainbow of colours oozes out of the screen and the speakers of the TV.
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.
The colour mechanic isn't the sole gimmick that keeps the game fresh, as Runbow offers something that no other Wii U title has ever put in the table. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U had 8-player Smash, so Runbow has gone ahead and added one more player to the mix. Unlike in Smash where the 8-player mode was limited to a handful of maps and a single game mode, in Runbow every single level supports the 9-player multiplayer, be it competitive or cooperative.
On the multiplayer front there are four different modes, and here's where the game shines the most. To makes things better (or worse) there's an array of power ups in every multiplayer mode that serve no other purpose than to sabotage the progress of your friends/enemies.
Run is the easiest one to pick up and play. The goal is simple, to reach the end of the level while competing against the other players. The Arena is the survival of the fittest. Using the attack button players can and are encouraged to punch, uppercut, dash or butt stomp their rivals players into oblivion (or the lava pit at the bottom of the screen) to become the last man standing. King of the Hill is pretty much the standard mode where a player has to control an area of the map of the game for a certain amount of time. The difference between this mode and the rest is that players re-spawn constantly until someone conquers the hill. ColourMaster is easily the funniest mode in the game. The players holding the controllers compete against the player with the GamePad, who plays the role of the ColourMaster, a wicked wizard that can shock the players, drop bombs and even switch the background colours at will.
Even if you don't have eight friends available to play with you at any given moment, you can always jump to the online lobbies and seek out players to shove into a lava pool or a bottomless pit.
And while Runbow is a great party game, it still has enough content for those who may want a less hectic experience by offering two different single player modes.
Adventure mode serves the purpose of being the main feature of the game. The premise is simple - complete the objective, whether it be reach the goal, collect a certain amount of coins or defeat a set number of enemies. Each challenge comes with a set amount of medals that can be collected based on the player's performance; the faster the challenge is cleared the higher the number of medals. In addition of serving as bragging rights, the medals also unlock a gargantuan amount of concept art, costumes and characters.
The player's skill and patience will be tested in the 140-plus levels spread across four different themes, each one with unique challenges, such as running away from a prison full of deadly lasers or surviving a tropical paradise in turmoil.
The Bowhemoth, on the other hand, is a whole different beast. The most challenging mode of the game, takes place inside the belly of a gargantuan beast and asks the players to beat a unique selection of challenges in a single run. It evokes memories of the NES era, as there are no save points and the difficulty level has been set to eleven; a single run can take from 30 minutes to a little more than two hours, depending on the skill and patience of the player.
What sets the Bowhemoth apart isn't the difficulty, but the presentation of the mode. Levels are modelled to give that grotesque feeling of being inside a monster, and the sound design is nothing short of exemplary.
Of course, the excellent art and sound direction isn't exclusive to the Bowhemoth mode. Inspired by Saul Bass and the Czechoslovakian New Wave the art style of Runbow is simple enough to be able to sustain the chaos of the multiplayer, yet endearing enough to keep the players glued to the screen when playing solo modes such as the Bowhemoth. It's colourful, fun to look and a pleasure to the eyes (as long as you're not colourblind).
The same can be said about the music composed by Dan Rodrigues and directed by Dave Proctor; together they created a vivid musical experience that reflects the light-hearted nature of Runbow. Jazz, Swing, Rockabilly and even Horror - no genre is safe in the hands of these two musicians. Swaying saxophones, enchanting trumpets and the ever beating drums adorn the levels and keep the players in sync to the what's happening on the TV screen.
The cherry on top of the cake is the collaboration between 13AM Games and the rest of the Nindies titles on the Wii U eShop. A colourful crossover of characters ranging from Shovel Knight to Scram Kitty via Chariot can be chosen as alternate skins of the protagonists of the game. Sadly they don't bring their trademark abilities or animations, but their presence is a welcome one, giving Runbow the unofficial title of the Indie Smash Bros.
As mentioned in the opening, Runbow is easily one of the best games that has graced the Wii U; it's a game that is very Nintendo in every single aspect, from concept to art and sound direction, to the point that Nintendo itself has taken the liberty to celebrate a launch party for Runbow at the Nintendo World Store in NYC. It's an excellent party game with a solid single player campaign and more unlockables than the colours of the rainbow; you won't regret paying the admission for this gem on the Wii U.