Somebody set SpeedRunner up the bomb. Over and over. That’s about as much plot as you’ll get in SpeedRunner HD, but that’s ok. You play as SpeedRunner, a quick superhero-type fellow with a sweet costume and a penchant for dismantling bombs. Which is good, because the Mad Bomber is setting up bombs all over the city for you to diffuse. Each level is filled with a variety of obstacles that you must overcome using the tools you gather along the way, including a grappling hook, a jetpack, and the ability to jump off of walls. The levels all have a number of potential paths to take, so keep your mind open to different possibilities as you play through in an effort to get the best time.
Here’s what we liked:
Comic book art style – SpeedRunnder HD draws its inspiration from superhero comic books, and it does a great job. The game is pretty, well-animated, and fluid. The backgrounds add depth and a subtle beauty to the overall feel of the levels. In one interview, the developer said the artist was influenced by Disney’s The Incredibles, and it shows. The style of both the animation and the comics used for the narrative leave no question that SpeedRunner is one rockin’ superhero dude.
The feel – To go along with the art style, SpeedRunner HD has attempted to nail down what it feels like to be a speedy superhero. While the controls aren’t perfect, when you nail that perfect release of the grappling hook and swing into a perfectly executed, jetpack-infused double jump over a pit of spikes and certain death, you will feel like a freakin’ superhero. Moments like this keep the player connected to the game, and SpeedRunner HD has plenty of them.
Bonus levels – While the main storyline of the game was rather short and easy (which we’ll discuss later), the bonus levels made up for it completely. SpeedRunner HD doesn’t have much in common with Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy, but in the bonus levels it nails the “Soooooo close! One more try!” frenzy that made the XBLA bestseller so popular. There are a total of six bonus levels, and the later ones are really freakin’ hard.
Multiplayer – The multiplayer is where this game really shines. While it’s only local, it does support up to four players. The basic goal of the multiplayer is to outrun everybody else on a circuitous path. Everyone starts with three lives, which you lose if you fall off the screen or land on some spikes. The levels all contain multiple paths through each area, switches to close things off behind you, and a ridiculous set of fun items such as missiles and droppable blocks that can be used to slow down your opponents. The multiplayer is the where the real value of this game lies, and it doesn’t disappoint. Pro tip: If you find yourself stuck in the lobby and want to switch levels, hit the back button on the controller.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
The length – SpeedRunner HD is short. The main story took about an hour to beat, and the bonus levels took about twice that. Gathering up the remaining collectibles and getting a gold on everything took about a half hour more. It was a thoroughly enjoyable journey, but the game, and especially the main story, left us wanting more.
No online – The multiplayer is by far the greatest thing SpeedRunner HD has going for it, and it would have been nice to be able to play against people not sitting on the couch next to us. XBLIG doesn’t allow leaderboards via Xbox Live, but some games have implemented ways around this. It would have been nice to see SpeedRunner HD try to do something like this as well, as it would have enhanced the replayability of the single player campaign greatly.
SpeedRunner HD is a short but entertaining game with a great look and feel to it. And the multiplayer really is something special. We were only able to get two players, but will definitely be coming back for more when we can round up some extra friends. Luckily, the demo has a single multiplayer stage unlocked, so grab a friend or two and give it a shot. If you like it, this game is probably worth a purchase. If not, the 240 MSP price tag may be a little steep. The single player ain’t too shabby and the bonus levels are where the real fun lies, so if you enjoy the single player demo the game is still worth a look. SpeedRunner HD may not be for everyone, but it’s a nice little game with a great multiplayer component.
Score: Try It!!!