CucumbeRunner Review

Game: CucumbeRunner
Genre: Action, Platformer
System: Steam (Windows)
Developer | Publisher: Crystal Bat Studio
Controller Support: Full
Price: UK £3.39 | US $3.99 | EU € 3,99
Release Date: March 6th, 2023

Review code used, with many thanks to Crystal Bat Studio

CucumbeRunner is a 2-D pixel art auto-runner platformer where you play as a cucumber. In each of the 70 main levels spread across three different worlds, you must reach the end of the level to proceed to the next. The challenge involves mastering the three running speeds and two jump moves and using said abilities to move from platform to platform without falling.

CucumbeRunner character in the Icy World
No time to stop or slide. This cucumber is constantly on the move!

Cruise Controls

I’d like to begin with full disclosure before discussing the CucumbeRunner controls. I don’t have much experience with endless runners or games with auto-running mechanics. I played a bit of BIT. TRIP RUNNER, Temple Run, Super Mario Run, and possibly a couple of others. What I found quite interesting with CucumbeRunner that I never encountered in other games is the ability to slow down and speed up on the fly. It sounds like a simple idea, and I found it a bit jarring at first, but the ability to control speed while you are in midair also made the whole formula work for me. This mechanic allows me to really control my jumps to the point that I never wanted to give up even while playing some of the game’s more frustrating levels. The reward for not giving up? I finished all 70 levels while clocking in about 80 minutes!

You can play CucumbeRunner with either a keyboard or a gamepad. I played using my gamepad because my 60% keyboard doesn’t have arrow keys. I would have liked it if the game allowed you to reconfigure the keyboard controls for those players. That being said, I was very comfortable playing with a gamepad because you’ll often slow down and speed up because many stages have platforms all over the place, and stopping isn’t in CucumbeRunner’s vocabulary! I found myself jerking the D-pad left and right a lot while running and jumping just to survive!

CucumbeRunner in the Tutorial World
Calm tutorial before the storm!

Endurance Test

As big as the 70 levels sound on paper, there isn’t much variety in level design. Each level has platforms all over the place, with the occasional portal that predictably teleports you to wherever the end portal is. Some of the later levels are a bit lengthier, but I found some of them easier to complete than earlier levels. After finishing the short tutorial and the first batch of 30 levels, the world changes. The worlds are mostly cosmetic, with no real gameplay variations or twists, making CucumbeRunner more of an endurance test. In fact, the very first level introduces roughly 95% of the game’s elements minus a few basic powerups. Whether or not you can endure 69 more of these levels is the question. I’ll explain how I endured.

CucumbeRunner falling in the Fire World
Expect a lot of these hot moments!

Pleasant Ingredients

Despite the lack of checkpoints on any level, I enjoyed how seamless the entire game flow felt. Whether you fall to your doom or reach the end of the level, the game wastes no time putting you back into action. Falling in a pit results in a speedy transition back to the beginning, and suddenly, you’re all out running again! Having no checkpoints will also force you to memorize the level and try to figure out the jump patterns, timing, and speed adjustments. Having these quick transitions certainly made the trials and errors feel easier.

The second pleasant ingredient for me is the rather energetic chiptune tracks. The game doesn’t offer a lot of music tracks, and they just cycle through from level to level, with the last world boasting a unique track, but they all feel very rhythmic to platforming. The rhythm gave me that extra sense of satisfaction, landing every jump to the beat. There were also a few moments where I used the second jump button called “Trick Jump” which is a more stylish and longer jump to clear some tougher gaps. If you plan on marathoning the game as I did, I recommend using headphones unless the music style isn’t your cup of tea.

Finally, many of the levels have various paths towards the goal and, in some instances, towards another goal. The collectable gems scattered across these paths make alternate routes more inviting to try out, especially after dying while trekking one path. Although I’m not the kind of player that likes to collect every single coin in a Mario game, I subconsciously collected more just to break the monotony of some of the levels that took me several tries to finish.

CucumbeRunner collecting gems in the Fire World
Take a good guess on how to collect all these!

Skills that Pay the… Skins

So why collect all these things when you have unlimited lives? To buy things, of course! CucumbeRunner has a little store where you can purchase up to 31 extra skins. That’s a little bit extensive for what the game offers, and you really need to grind if you wish to collect them all, but considering how simple the cucumber character looks, I suppose it’s a neat extra!

Buying skins in CucumbeRunner
Plenty of diversity for a simple vegetable!

Bitter Cucumber

While I enjoyed the game for the most part and fully understand the game’s simple nature, I couldn’t help but think of some minor improvements that could drastically uplift the game. Seeing how you can make your cucumber character run faster, why not add a feature that records your fastest time in completing a level? That simple feature could pave the way to a leaderboard section which is a rather easy way to add some replayability. Finishing the game unlocks some ridiculously challenging levels, which I won’t spoil, but there aren’t many.

I also wish the end game featured more challenging levels that just didn’t involve heavy use of the portals. Simple elements such as moving platforms or extra hazards that suited the world’s theme would have opened up more interesting designs.

CucumbeRunner in the Spooky World
More of the same, but still quite spooky!

Conclusion – Lightly Scratches the Auto-Runner Itch

CucumbeRunner’s biggest strengths are its simplicity, super responsive controls, and speedy game flow. I can safely recommend this to younger folks looking for a casual, tricky platformer, but not too punishing. If you seek something more fleshed out, I would advise looking elsewhere. Overall, decent attempt with enough pull to make me finish the game!

Final Verdict: I Like It

I like it

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