Choice Provisions (formerly Gaijin Games) is back with a new Bit.Trip game in the form of Runner3 for Nintendo Switch and PC platforms. It has been awesome seeing how each Bit.Trip release builds upon the last one and while Bit.Trip Presents… Runner 3: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien was pretty great on all platforms, Runner3 manages to improve in almost every way. Runner3 is a platforming rhythm game that blends both genres with quirky humour and a kickass soundtrack that is only elevated by Charles Martinet’s (the voice of Mario) narration.
If you’ve never played a game in this franchise, they are basically auto runners where you need to time your jumps and other abilities to avoid obstacles and collect as much gold as you can. Gameplay is mostly on a 2D plane in a 3D environment and levels are split up into different paths of varying difficulty. Checkpoints will feel rather unfair initially and expect to die right before a checkpoint very often. Thankfully, loading isn’t really a problem when you keep dying in a certain level. The level design is a bit unforgiving in some situations. Expect to die in trial and error moments to progress certain levels quite often. This often has you redoing a large portion of the level multiple times because of how the checkpoint system works. Thankfully load times are very fast so it isn’t more than an annoyance as you get used to new mechanics and deal with some of the input lag.
Runner3 introduces vehicle sections so you have free movement while flying in some sections while mine cart like segments in another level. The perspective changes quite a bit even though your gameplay is still avoiding obstacles and collecting gold when in a vehicle. The nearly 30 core levels are split up into 3 main worlds with more areas getting unlocked depending on how much gold you collect or the side quests. Yes, this platformer rhythm game has side quests called Hero Quests which are given to you by NPCs who require you to collect certain items in levels. These get you new playable characters. In addition to core levels and the gem route option that adds another layer of challenge, there are retro challenges that give you a bit more freedom in the platforming and have a lovely old cartoon style aesthetic.
Runner 2 looked excellent and Runner3 is good looking but not the jump I expected for a sequel. The environments are a bit bland but everything else is great. Animations are slick and the enemies and obstacles look very nice. On the Switch, there’s a distinct lack of anti aliasing which makes certain things look quite bad while docked. On handheld a lot of these issues aren’t really noticeable. This is also a problem for The End is Nigh.
Since this is a rhythm platformer game, music is very important. The soundtrack is great and I only really dislike one of the opening area songs. Sound effects are also very nice and having a set of greetings from Charles Martinet in the opening are great. One of them actually has him say “I’m Charles Martinet and you’re not”.
I hope Choice Provisions patches this soon because while I can forgive the lack of anti aliasing in handheld mode to maintain the frame rate, there are a few slowdowns. The big problem however is input lag that can be the deciding factor in you nailing a jump followed by a kick or being thrown back to the beginning of a level or a checkpoint.
While I played Runner 2 on the PS4 and the previous games on PC, it has been great to play this on a portable from the start. Portables are great for pickup and play experiences and Runner3 with a few patches will be an essential for all rhythm game and platformer fans on the Switch. Hopefully they port the older games to the Switch as well so the whole franchise can be playable on a single portabl device as it should be.