Runner 3 is, as you might expect, the third Runner game which itself is part of the wider 1980s-themed BIT.TRIP series that first appeared back in 2009. Central character Commander Video returns for this instalment, which expands on previous Runner games by adding new mechanics, vehicles, and a huge array of unlockables, side missions, and bonus levels.
Your main task is to guide Commander Video to the end of each level. He runs along the screen automatically, with players only needing to guide his actions. We say “only”, but it's a lot more difficult than it sounds. Things start simply enough with a single jump button, but the game quickly adds all manner of additional moves that need to be timed to perfection if the Commander is going to make it to the end of each level. Crashing or falling sends you back to the start of the course unless you've reached the midway checkpoint, but levels can be pretty long so there's a high chance you'll find yourself being set further back than you might like.
Each level contains 100 gold bars that can be collected during your run. These aren't necessary for progressing through the game, but they can be spent on costumes for your character and offer a nice layer of challenge. Completing a course unlocks an alternate route through the level, where 100 more gold bars and 25 additional gems can be obtained. These in turn can be spent on opening some ridiculously difficult bonus levels, as well as additional characters including the game's narrator Charles Martinet (the voice of Mario himself).
Each of the three themed worlds in Runner 3 are beautifully designed, with some really quite surreal backgrounds based on food, spooks and machines. It's difficult to take it all in while you're concentrating on the action, but the colourful graphics, wacky characters and memorable music make watching someone else play almost as enjoyable as doing it yourself (insert Kenneth Williams jpeg here).
Runner 3 demands precision, and it's unfortunate that the controls can occasionally feel a little on the fussy side - you'll swear you nailed that double jump, only to crash into a wall of plummet to your death. Our other slight issue was that hazards can appear so quickly that courses often end up being an exercise in repetition, memorising each section until you're able to time every single move to perfection, which takes away a little from the test of skill and reflexes that we were expecting.
Tricky, weird, slightly unpredictable but overall enjoyable, there might be a couple of less desirable issues but ultimately Runner 3 has a lot to offer, particularly with its pick up and play aspect which lends itself perfectly to the Switch. Home console versions are supposedly in the works, so definitely one to keep an eye out for.RUNNER 3 / DEVELOPER: CHOICE PROVISIONS / PUBLISHER: NICALIS / PLATFORM: PC, SWITCH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW