Glitchrunners, from Torque Games, takes the fast, competitive platform genre and adds in more level obstacles, more deadly traps, and more explosives – it then plonks those obstructions into the hands of a human.
At its purest level Glitchrunners is an exceptionally clean, polygon platform title. Four friends make their way from the left to the right of the level as the titular Glitchrunners, they jostle, hit and, knock one another to their death along the way for points. There’s obstacles along the way to destroy as well which also score you points. Once they reach a certain part of the level, just over half way, they come across an area with some generators, which if destroyed will release the Powercube – the reason for their journey. With the Powercube captured they carefully make their way to the exit, jumping from platform to platform with careful timing, and once at the exit they embark onto the Glitchmobile for a glorious exit – and probably milkshakes and high-fives all-round. Points are racked up, and that’s it, boom, heist complete.
The game is much more than its core though. As the heisters are working their way through the levels “The Architect” – the fifth player – is watching over the level, trying to delay them, and outright end them. On the screen of this fifth player everything is while and sterile, except for the pesky targets, oh, and the many, many things that you can interact with. Those are colour coded to show how you trigger them – red is double tap; blue drag to throw; green hold to use.
Adding the architect to the mix completely changes the game, all of a sudden the four runners are up against an omnipotent, mad poltergeist. They time their jumps to make a gap, only to receive a truck to the face. They carefully move from platform to platform only to be consumed by a venus fly trap, or squashed under a falling container. If it wasn’t a human doing it then the AI would be called unfair, and the developers would be accused of building a game that cheats to win. But, it is a human, and they’re using that extremely clean interface that allows them to quickly, and easily (be it touch screen, or mouse & keyboard) dispose of the pitiful humans.
The runners do have ways of fighting back, containers litter the levels which fill up a bar for each of the characters, once full they can deploy the attack which stuns the architect player until they click on a moving portrait. Ultimately though the best defence is to run like hell, and hope that the architect is after someone else’s blood.
Not only is the architect equipped with multiple means of mayhem through the items on the level, they also have several other abilities including inverting controls, switching off gravity, and triggering slow motion – all perfect ways to further steer the runners to their death. As if that isn’t enough, should they fail to capture the cube – which would have given them a temporary shielding ability – the architect gains a further power, rockets.
It was a really fun experience to play the game with the developers, and immediately after returning home I downloaded the alpha demo from [their website] which then was booted almost immediately when a few of the team next assembled.
The game is set to launch over the next few months, and it’ll launch containing five levels. It’s going to be launching on the Xbox where it will use SmartGlass for the fifth player. It’ll also launch for desktops with cross compatible via PC & Mac, and will also support tablets for the architect role.
Five levels might not seem like much, but with the game built like how it is – human vs human – and with silly features like randomised clothing and name options, it’s almost certainly going to be a long time before it starts feeling repetitive.