Iconic 80s anime Akira serves as the inspiration for RUNNER, a breakneck sci-fi arcade shooter which arguably tries to do too much. As a smuggler in an aggressively hostile world, you must outrun robo-cops through seven dynamically generated stages, dual-wielding pistols while you issue a little justice all of your own. Cowboy Bebop’s Steve Blum stars in colourful cutscene interludes, while the game is bundled with a free visual novel that fleshes out the story – as well as a soundtrack visualiser, with full PSVR2 compatibility.
It’s a cool package, then, but the actual game throws far too much at you from the start – introducing a dizzying array of systems and mechanics in an overwhelming “rub your belly, pat your head” fashion. In addition to wielding your weapons, you can also launch missiles, lob grenades, select different firing styles, steer your motorcycle, and generate a cyber-sword, which you can use to deflect enemy projectiles. It’s a dizzying amount of stuff, and we still find ourselves pressing the wrong buttons even after several hours of play.
To make matters worse, the game is punishing, to the point where we swiftly realised we weren’t going to get very far without turning invincibility on. You can find a flow with practice, but the levels are extremely long, and while there are generous checkpoints, we found ourselves feeling physically exasperated at times. We’re probably just not cut out for the runner lifestyle, but there are some really brutal design decisions, like when wielding a weapon with your left hand you can only steer with the right thumbstick; there’s a vehicle you can unlock which allows you to steer while holding your guns, but you’ll need to wrap your head around the system as it is before you get there.
In addition to the synth-driven city pop soundtrack, the neon punk aesthetic looks really nice in 4K in PSVR2, and while the vibrant colours may lead to headaches, we like the chaotic, almost violent nature of the presentation. But ultimately, we found ourselves tiring of the overly long levels fairly quickly, and so the title lacks that sense of replayability that’s so fundamental to truly great arcade releases.
I was really tempted to add this to my shameful PSVR2 splurge given the very reasonable price, but I get frustrated and exhausted enough in real life.
I'd agree with this review all the way around. It's a really cool arcade experience reminiscent of Sega sit down cabinets, and for only $15 there's worse experiences than this which is pretty visceral to experience.
But less would have been more. There's too many systems going on to really keep on top of any of them and they're all unintuitive and even more than level length that's really the main problem that kills the fun. It combines bullet hell with control hell.
Yet there's a cool real arcade experience in it too. And it's designed to eat quarters nicely...
This is probably not what I’m looking for in a VR game. To me, VR games I’ll play are supposed to be atmospheric and stress relieving (besides from horror games. Those could go under atmospheric). Basically, I’m not playing VR for a mega challenge. This doesn’t seem up my alley unfortunately
I got this on Quest 2. There's just too much in this game. I would never recommend this for PSVR 2.
But if there's a demo, check it out.
I bought this day one on PSVR2 because city pop ost + Steve Blum+Akira = intstant buy for me, but I haven’t gotten around to playing it. Sounds hard.
I feel like VR games tend to be more polarizing than most kinds of games. I see more split opinions than not. This review seems perfectly fair, but I’ve also heard some positive things about it.
Sounds like something to pick up on a sale.
Got this on release but only managed to try it out yesterday. Got wiped out twice on the first stage. I didnt find the control scheme very natural and it will defenately take time to learn them.
@CWill97 I agree with you actually. I prefer my VR games to have an easy-going difficulty, too.
Sometimes they just try to introduce to much. Sometimes a more simple controlsheme is the way to go beat saber simple but fun and a blast if i read what people love about it. It should be fun to play a little harder to master.
@neonpizza Haha, yeah everyone should play it just for the hub and bike customization area. There's at least as much content there as most Owlchemy games lol
It's such a shame about the controls. I can deal with the PS1 environments, it's still very arcade-chic. And the sheer adrenaline is unbeatable. But the darned convoluted controls mean you're fighting with your guns more than enemies. Also not supporting motion throttles and tilt to turn is a missed opportunity for full arcade fun.
I'm hoping they may hear feedback and update it with a new control scheme. It really could be such an awesome game.
Felt the need to create an account just to say I think this game is really good. The control scheme is quite unique but I can't imagine a better way to have done them and you'll get used to it. This game is definitely on the more challenging (but fun) side, but for what it's worth an update just dropped to day rebalancing the difficulty. Reload times are much shorter now so if you struggle to juggle to guns you can play with just one.
I respect the opinions of the reviewer and commenters and I'm glad you shared them. I just felt the need to offer a counter argument. It's hard to go wrong with an £11 game
Also, play it standing lol
Hello! Developer here
Popping in to firstly thank Sammy for covering the game — one caveat I did want to mention is the review unfortunately did not include a significant number of changes that were present in the day 1 patch (because said patch was 5 days late due to the chaos of launch and the idiosyncrasies of Ps5 cert). We did reach out to all the reviewers that had media codes, however our email was sent the morning this review was posted and it’s the only one that slipped through the cracks, so to speak. This is entirely our fault (we don’t crunch and we incorrectly assumed we would get it out in time, but failed to do so because we became aware of a last minute audio bug we had to fix). That is entirely on us, which sucks because the game didn’t make the first impression we wanted it to.
The patch included fixes, not only for the main issues the reviewers here had (simplified difficulty, faster reloading which massively improved ease of play, improved boss encounters, fixed enemy spawning which made the levels go on longer than they were supposed to, etc) it also included a major feature not covered which was the social screen co-op mode, as well as a full database of enemy types, boss hints, and a control diagram that is accessible at any time so players don’t have to master a complex control system at first go.
The last thing we want folks to do is write off the game based on something it isn’t. I don’t consider 5 a ‘bad’ score, but nobody is happy about just being average either! The game is meant to be challenging and NOT frustrating, and I believe with the day 1 update it made huge strides in that direction.
I’m working on more updates down the road that I hope will warrant additional coverage so folks will have a chance to experience the game - it’s honestly a labor of love for both Anime and arcade games of the era. Thanks again!
@CWill97 hey there! As I mentioned in my reply - we implemented a great deal of changes the first week of launch which were not available to the reviewer here unfortunately. The challenge is no longer frustratingly difficult for most, and we added additional modes (including social screen co-op) that should make the whole thing more accessible
@NEStalgia hey there! Kind of late to the party here, but we did indeed implement a bunch of changes that greatly improved the experience but were too late for this review. 🙏🏻
My position basically is the controls aren’t convoluted, the problem is, it’s a lot to absorb. The day 1 (well, week 1 lol) patch included a full control diagram, as well as a lot of other tweaks and improvements, which really improved the experience for newcomers. The problem being, we just couldn’t get everything approved in time for launch.
The problem with tilt controls for a motorcycle is it would require holding your hands in a static stationary position for a long period of time which quickly leads to fatigue. It’s also difficult to give controls any nuance when you have to worry about broad motions for input. lastly, tilting to steer also doesn’t really suit as actual motorcycle riders. Keep their heads level, one steering the bike and actually steer with their bodies (which, unfortunately, is not something possible with the current implementation of HMD based VR).
Anyway, apologies for the random reply!
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