Earlier in the year we took a look at upcoming multiplayer speed running title Giana Sisters: Dream Runners, and found its offering of superbly designed, and strikingly detailed levels of thrilling acuity a splendid experience. Dream Runners has now hit digital shelves, but have the few glitches and oddities we found in its preview build been ironed out?
Marvellously it seems they have, and Dream Runners looks, feels and plays superbly. The simple focus of a four player race around a complex, looping level is full of exciting competition, as well as frequent and intense platforming risk/reward decision-making and combat, offering precisely the kind of experience titles of this ilk feed on. It’s a compelling mix that can take hook of a party of players for quite some time, complimented by excellent level design and variety to keep the experience fresh.
You and up to three additional players take to a level and race around it over endless laps, with racers who fall off the edge of the screen being eliminated and the surviving lone player scoring a point. First to three points wins. Power-ups are strewn across the levels, offering temporary boosts to your character or a weapon to launch against your opponents, meanwhile, a refillable sprint can be charged by passing through certain specific areas of a level, and an intractable fireball ability can boost you forwards and save you from elimination but is also at risk of causing you to bounce unfavourably and hurt your progress just as much; it’s a very clever addition.
Multiple paths subtlety branch within each level offering different obstacles and/or collectible power-ups for you and you foes to compete for, and choosing which path to take as you’re dashing through the level is a curtail aspect of the tactics and strategies you need to consider to win those precious points. Weighing up the risk/reward factors of longer routes for potential power-ups and staying out-of-the-way of your opponents who may launch weapons at you, requires quick thinking, and your initial runs through a level are inevitable going to be full of trial and error as you figure out their layout. It’s wonderfully intense competition, and with nine levels to choose from, all of which are lengthy and complex, learning their optimal routes for each situation is a monumental task.
Moreover, much like in the previous Giana Sisters title, Twisted Dreams, the environments can be altered dramatically, but instead of being able to change your surroundings at will, you need to run through switches scattered amongst the levels. Doing so not only makes for a visually different aesthetic to the location, but also adds new hazards and obstacles. It’s terrific, and essentially turns the 9 maps into 18.
Unfortunately a couple of issues we picked up on in the preview remain. You’re frequently respawned elsewhere to where the last point was won, not far but significantly enough to confuse you a little. It’s a result of specific spawn points that otherwise prevent you from potentially spawning in terrible locations, so it’s a quirk we can forgive. Helpful arrows are littered around each level to help you stay on course at least, but it’s a visually busy and fast paced setting that can still leave you overwhelmed and confused.
Mind you it’s a stunningly beautiful game, with highly detailed textures throughout and spectacular lighting. Falling of screen and watching the action is almost as rewarding as winning the point. It also runs smoothly with no hint of frame rate issues.
Local and online options are available for finding players to compete with, either ranked or friendly quick matches. Meanwhile, any empty slots can be filled by bots with the option of multiple difficulty levels for each. The AI is, however, very aggressive even on easy, offering up a stiff challenge that better prepares you for skilled human foes but can also lead to frustration in solo play. Playing with others is certainly the best option, and is tons of fun, especially with friends.
Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is a terrific multiplayer title. The level design is impressively complex and beautiful, offering a challenging and diverse set of locations and obstacles that are enhanced even further by the environment switching mechanic. It’s strongest when played with others but is content rich enough to keep solo players happy if speed running takes your fancy. It is possibly a bit too complex with its level design to appeal to everyone, but it’s an impressive title nonetheless.
Thanks to Xbox and Black Forest Games for their support
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