Speedrunners is parkour on steroids. Essentially a foot race; you run, jump over, slide under, and grapple across levels with the intention of leaving your opponents far enough behind to be knocked off the screen and out of the race for that round.
Aside from some very short dialogue slides, (that sometimes give hints on how to handle obstacles) the “narrative” is told through a series of comics unlocked upon completion of one of the story mode’s four chapters. While campy and generic, it all makes sense in it’s own odd way and pairs perfectly with the Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic. These one-shots loosely explain the backstory and motivations for a few of the main characters. Speaking of, characters are quirky and fun to look at but seem to fall short in being the parody they intended. You get what developer DoubleDutch was going for, but none of the gags will break your poker face. Fortunately, story is far from the point of the game and it excels in most other areas.
Gameplay is where Speedrunners really shines. It features both local and online multiplayer, both teeth-grindingly intense. The controls are smooth, runners move gracefully across the screen, and the command layout felt nearly perfect to me but can be mapped to any button you choose. Tracks are just as vertical as they are horizontal with drops, traps to avoid, and switches you can flip to change parts of the layout. These obstacles keep your soon to be former friends guessing, forcing them to make a split-second change in trajectory. Boost areas fill a meter that grants a temporary speed increase and power-ups are strewn throughout stages a la Mario Kart to keep things interesting. As time winds down the display area shrinks, heightening the tension and leaving racers much less room for error. The last man standing wins the round and the first player to snag a third victory wins the race. If I had to sum up Speedrunners in a single sentence it would be “Mario Kart on foot”.
Item and movement sounds are superb and add a confidence in your actions that stoke that competitive fire. I only wish the menus didn’t sound like a broken pachinko machine. The score is fun the first time around. The music is as upbeat and energetic as you would expect, but I eventually found myself muting the music (and ONLY the music because I loved the sound effects) and putting on my favorite playlist.
If you’d been on Newgrounds.com anytime around 2006 you’ve seen a less refined version of Speedrunners, at least stylistically. The vibe I got from those old flash games is alive and well here. This is both for better and worse as, while nostalgic for me, it could come off as a lack of polish for others. Characters look adequate but are far from being described as beautiful or even cool in most cases. Still, their superhero personas can be amusing, and where they fall short in detail they make up for with the style in their movement. All in all Speedrunners is pretty fun to look at, especially from the front of the line.
As competitive as it can be (and make no mistake Speedrunners is a friendship ender) you never really feel slighted after a loss. Any rage I felt was soon extinguished by the prospect of another race and another shot at greatness. Another chance to feel the momentum of your character’s swing over a bed of spikes. Another shot at freezing a competitor in place with an ice beam or dragging them with a grappling hook back to second place where they belong. You feel dumb for losing but when you win, you win like a boss!