Monday, May 20, 2024

Pride Run Review: a rhythm game with spine

It can be easy to look at Pride Run and assume that this is just a game where you mash some keys, dance to a beat and kick Donald Trump’s butt as a tall bunny lady. In some ways you’re right, but there’s more to Pride Run than meets the eye.

When you boot Pride Run up, you’re offered two different modes: Vanilla and Play Hard. As someone who’s favourite flavour is vanilla, that seemed to be the right option for me. So, off I went, choosing locations around the world to show off my pride, and the raucous parade that came with it.

My first location was San Francisco, where the city was alight with rainbow and the beat was enchanting. Cranking up the difficulty to medium, I focused all my attention on two things: nodding my head to the rhythm like some possessed jazz player and making sure I hit the right keys on time. It worked pretty well, but it was hard to watch the actual game unfold in front of me due to needing to be on rhythm with my button mashing. A shame too, as the parade during Pride is one of the best things about the event.

But hey, at least the music is catchy enough that, even if you don’t see all of the parade, you’ll be too busy jamming along to the music to even care. That said, some of the music does get a little tedious and feels more like the devs were trying to find music that ‘fits’ with the country of origin, which is a nice touch overall, but doesn’t really pay off.

After I’ve finished jamming my way through the streets of San Franciso, I was confronted by a significant enemy, one that is completely against the idea of Pride. How you deal with them is simple: a dance-off.

My first enemy was Donald Trump, which already told me that this game is pulling ZERO punches. It was no ‘hey this is just the likeness of absolute maniac Donald Trump’, no, this was actually Donald Trump and I’m going to beat his ass with my kickass moves.

For this dance-off to get cooking, you’ll need to use your keys to perform the right combination. Of course, it’s not as simple as just pressing up, down, down, right — you’ll need to do it alongside the rhythm that’s playing. After you’ve successfully completed a move, you’ll need to either smash keys rapidly or complete a sequence perfectly. Doing so means that you hit your enemy with all the power of pride, making their pride-o-meter raise.

But it isn’t all just action, your enemy is going to hurl their vitriol hatred at you and so you’ll need some protection! Perform the right key sequence, and you’ll be safe, otherwise the pride-o-meter will be hit with a significant amount of hate.

Once your enemy reaches full Pride, they’ll transform into an ally of pride. Now, this is where things get a little uncomfortable. In Pride Run, turning Trump into a cross-dresser after he becomes an ally of pride is a little ‘ugh’ moment as it brings forth a lot of assumptions that players may not find themselves agreeing with. After all, who actually wants Trump as an ally? Not us! However, considering that Pride Run is set in a world where love really does conquer all, this odd inclusion doesn’t completely destroy Pride Run’s message or its impact.

Pride Run continues this pattern – parade and dance-off – for the rest of the game on Vanilla mode, which is something I found charming. It doesn’t change all too much, and it doesn’t have to. It’s a game where spreading love is the key, and why change from that when it wouldn’t add anything else to the game? Of course, the different difficulty is also included to make sure that if it does get tedious, you’ll be able to switch it up to give yourself a challenge.

And if that isn’t good enough, then there’s always Play Hard mode.

Play Hard is completely different from Vanilla mode. Instead of having to get the right rhythm at the right time, you’ll be in charge of your very own Pride parade. As someone who is very bad at management, this is, of course, my worst nightmare.

Only, it’s not that bad. You get to choose between leaders that’ll be leading your parade and have a ridiculous powerful move that’ll get everyone dancing and cheering, as well as other Pride-goers such as Chubs, Bears, Dominatrixes, etc. They all have their own appeal, and as such, have their own combination of moves that can be used to pull people from the crowd to join your parade.

In Play Hard, you’ll be faced with a lot more bigotry than in Vanilla, which is represented by a ton of angry red people. Some characters will be able to shield your parade from this. But, as you’d expect from the words ‘Play Hard’, this isn’t at all easy. Everything is happening in real-time, so you’ll need to do your best by moving your shields to take the brunt of the hate and protect others.

Only if you don’t use some of your units for a while, these units will disperse and leave. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve screamed ‘no, goddamn you!’ at this game, so this is a very real issue. What’s worse, your Pride parade can actually get canceled if the hate becomes too overwhelming or everyone leaves. The music fades and the screen goes dark, a world with no color. It’s poignant in its misery and I love that a lot.

Overall, Pride Run is a game that has a lot of grit and spine in its message: a world where Love wins, regardless of the country you’re from or who you are. It’s a game where there is no use denying that there’s a political message, because it’s right there and you’ll just have to get used to it.

To put bluntly: it’s a fantastic game that doesn’t ask its audience to do anything but have as much fun as possible, all the while celebrating Pride. If that doesn’t make a great game, we don’t know what does!

Pride Run is out today! Show your pride by purchasing it on Green Man Gaming or Steam.

For more gayming takes, check out our review section!

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