The 3D platformer is not the genre it used to be. Though it once dominated the industry, it’s obviously not a focal point for most anymore. When 3D platformers do get released, though, they’re usually in the mold of games from the late ’90s, meant to echo a bygone era. Ricky Runner definitely tries to do something different. But can a focus on parkour make for a stronger-than-average entry into the genre?
To start with, there isn’t much of a story to Ricky Runner. You play as the eponymous character, a boy with a baseball cap, as he platforms his way around a collection of levels. At the very start, Ricky crashes his rocket ship and a small animal leads him to the sign up of the Superboot Cup. When I first heard of this game, I thought it was yet another endless runner because of the game’s generic title, but I was extremely glad that wasn’t the case.
Visually, the game is surprisingly nice to look at. For an indie game made by such a small staff, the game is certainly aesthetically pleasing. Ricky’s name might be generic, but he’s well-modeled and well-animated. The levels also take place across a few different biomes, so in the time I spent with the game, it never got boring to look at. The menus and map looked awful a couple of weeks ago, but recent updates have improved those aspects substantially.
Ricky Runner Is Already A Fun Time
It’s worth mentioning that, despite the fact that this is the first day Ricky Runner is available on Steam, the developer has been letting fans play the game as they’ve developed it in order to make the game as good as it can be. The Czech developer, Contra Concept, also has an impressive pedigree. Their site states that it’s made up of ex-devs of games such as Mafia 2, Quantum Break, and the perennial favorite, The Witcher 3.
But how does the gameplay fare? To put it simply, it’s excellent. From the gameplay alone, I would never have guessed that Ricky Runner was so early in development. The structure of the game is very easy to understand. You select a level from the map, and beating it unlocks more. Most of the levels are timed in some capacity, and each has bronze, silver, gold, and special medals to attain. There are leaderboards too! The game’s subtitle is “Superboot Cup,” so it’s all about racing against the clock.
Ricky controls wonderfully. On controllers, the jump button is mapped to the left bumper so that the player can simultaneously move the camera and jump. The right bumper controls Ricky’s slide ability, as well as has him pull his legs up while jumping. The gameplay focuses on three main moves: jumping, wall-running, and wall-jumping. Ricky wall-runs automatically when he jumps near a wall. It works quite well too, with accurate physics and an excellent use of momentum.
The Variety Of Levels Makes Me Want To See What’s Next
While levels are generally of the race-to-the-finish variety, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a diverse array of challenges ahead. Some levels make use of checkpoints that give an ever-decreasing amount of points depending on how long you take. Others just require you to make it through a set of challenges. One of the obstacle types Ricky Runner throws at you are hurdles and bars. In these levels, Ricky’s score drops based on how many of these he runs into. Luckily, he can slide as well. Trying to keep your score high while precariously jumping over hurdles and sliding under bars is a solid challenge.
There are also levels that have two routes, a normal one and a hard one. The hard challenges basically have Ricky press a button that destroys a good amount of the platforms. In order to make it through these routes, you really have to have your parkour skills down, as they are challenging but similarly satisfying. You also can’t get the best medals in these levels without going through the hard routes.
When I last played Ricky Runner, it had a couple dozen levels. I put a couple of hours into it, making sure to try and increase my scores. The levels are also really, really fun. One, however, had me literally jumping through hoops. This felt super finicky and was the only time I was really frustrated with the game. Otherwise, the amount of creativity on display here was great to see. I’m looking forward to having some more levels to parkour my way through in the near future.
The Game’s Camera Cooperates, Thankfully
I mostly played the game in a different state than it’s in now. A lot of my level progress seems to be reset, but I can already see a bunch of interesting changes, including new levels and a new biome. However, I am having trouble figuring out one new level, called Speed. I run out of the speed needed to make a jump, but all the game tells me is to “keep the boost”. But I’m not sure what exactly that means. I’m sure this will become clear soon, though.
I do wish, however, that the game had a different name. Simply having the word “runner” in the title not only makes it sound generic, but it might end up getting lumped together with the horde of endless runner games as I mentioned previously. The name just kind of sounds like it’s a fifty cent app store game where you tap the screen and do little else. In reality, this is one of the most satisfying 3D platformers I’ve ever played.
Despite technically entering Early Access today, Ricky Runner is already a really fun experience. I didn’t notice a single bug or notable issue, not even with the camera. And 3D platformers are notorious for having issues with that. This is one Early Access title that people can feel comfortable in putting money down, as the devs have already demonstrated their talent and commitment towards continuing to make this excellent game even better. Anyone who enjoys 3D platformers will likely find a very good time here.