RunMan: Race Around the World is the kind of game that just makes you feel good. As opposed to most popular games of our age being centered around having a realistic look and serious aesthetic, RunMan: RAtW puts a lot of effort into being the opposite. Its innocence reminds me of a cross between an old children’s book and children’s cartoon. The brainchild of the game, Tom Sennett, has made quite a few small games based around RunMan, but here comes RunMan’s swan song, so to speak.
Our tale starts with someone holding a race. The track? The entire world. Naturally, when the impossibly famous RunMan shows up to compete in the race, everyone forfeits. RunMan, hardly being one to accept the title of victor by default, agrees to run around the world as fast as he can, regardless of the issue of competition.
RunMan: Race Around the World is the kind of game that seems determined to put a smile on your face. Beyond the simple story with a very cute ending, the graphics are made to look as if a kid (who could stay between the lines) was given some markers and told to go wild, much to the game’s benefit. The music consists of old jazz, ragtime, and fiddle-driven folk music from the era when jazz was at its peak; just the kind of stuff you would expect to hear in a cartoon of the time.
Even the gameplay is designed for the player to enjoy it in any way they like. RunMan: RAtW‘s controls are incredibly simple: press left and right to run, hold a button to zoom, press a different button to jump, and press down during your jump to fall incredibly fast.
The zoom button is key in RunMan: RAtW; RunMan will bounce off any wall he hits and change direction if he’s zooming, whether he’s on the ground or in the air. Zooming can also be used to break certain walls or run through enemies that can’t be accomplished with normal running. On the other hand, zooming can cause other enemies to ‘attack’ RunMan that won’t if he’s running normally.
I put the word ‘attack’ in quotations because of one of the most important facts of the game: you can’t die. Enemy ‘attacks’ simply slow you down, stop you for a few seconds, or possibly send you running in the wrong direction. Even falling off a cliff doesn’t stop RunMan from moving; he simply pops up from the cliff a moment after the fall, still moving at an incredible speed. With no way of dying, you’re free to enjoy the game any way you like – either by going through all the levels or getting high scores and record times on levels.
The challenge in RunMan: RAtW is getting through the levels as fast as possible, while avoiding stopping and collecting as many points as you can. Points can be collected by popping balloons that are scattered across the level, zooming through certain enemies, and by taking advantage of the momentum meter, which fills up as long as you keep RunMan moving.
Having the momentum meter high means that you’ll get more points at specific checkpoints in the level, making it crucial in getting the most possible points. At the end of the level, you’re awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medal based on your score. If you had an excellent run on a level, you can even save a ‘ghost’ racer to compete against.
Personally, though, I was one of those people who enjoyed the game by simply going through the levels. The only trouble with RunMan: RAtW‘s gameplay is that trying to play the game to earn medals will make you realize just how bad you are at the game. RAtW can be a light-hearted romp if you just go through the levels normally, but earning the medals can be pretty damn hard.
Your main incentive for getting medals is to unlock new characters with different properties (some may jump higher, some can’t zoom, etc.). However, the ones that I managed to unlock before going insane were just not as fun to race with as RunMan, which makes me question whether or not it’s worth it.
Also, there are a few select levels where you can die, forcing you to start the race over. In RAtW, there are six worlds, with six levels each. The final level in each world is a ‘boss’ level, which sees RunMan running for his life against some sort of monster, animal, tractor, or force of nature. If the boss manages to catch up with RunMan and touches him, you’ll have to start the race over. Boss levels start out easily enough, but if you haven’t been practicing, get ready to die a lot.
Still, this isn’t enough to outweigh the charm of RunMan: Race Around the World – not even close. RAtW is very childish, and I truly mean that in the best way possible. Even if the boss levels or the pursuit of medals can be frustrating and bring forth feelings of inadequacy (or maybe that’s just me), the aesthetic of this game alone was enough to put a huge smile on my face. I’m still waiting for any popular title of our time to do that.
(Does RunMan: Race Around the World sound like your kind of game? Download it here!)