Iridium Runners has two things working against it right out of the gate. First, it’s a PS2 game. It takes a big, impressive title to make people consider stepping back a console generation and picking up a bargain bin game. Second, Iridium Runners is a piece of new intellectual property in a genre dominated by Nintendo’s Mario Kart: the arcade racer.
Iridium Runners doesn’t throw too many curve balls at you. There are multiple characters whose stats differ, and some characters are better suited to certain tracks than others. There are power-ups to be grabbed and launched at your opponents. Lastly, Iridium Runners features the standard laundry list of game modes that any kart racer has: single race, career, collect stuff on the track, elimination, and split-screen multiplayer.
Where Iridium Runners carves out a niche of its own though is its light platforming and mandatory iridium collection. Contestants need iridium to enable boost, but that’s not all it is used for. Iridium is also drained by the simple process of running so laps around IR’s tracks are an amalgamation of Mario Kart’s “shoot, drive, and slide your way across the line” and Gauntlet‘s “collect food if you want to live” gameplay concepts. Setting itself apart from the pack even further racers in Iridium Runners don’t have go-karts, bicycles, or futuristic cars to race around in; they’re all running around on foot. It’s just like gym class when you were a kid – except for the missiles, shields, pits, futuristic setting, and acceptability of punching an opponent to make him fall in one of the aforementioned pits. Most arcade racers feature weapons, but not since Road Rash and Bully have I been able to punch the jerk next to me as retaliation for trying to run me off the track.
Where Iridium Runners really shines though is the multiplayer. Sure, it’s funny to throw a blue shell up Bowser’s tail pipe and fly from fourth to first in a matter of seconds in Mario Kart, but the payoff of melee attacks combined with the risk of being in close proximity to fellow racers makes the combat in Iridium Runners different and refreshing. If you’ve got a multitap IR supports up to four players, and you’re missing out on the best part of the game if you’re playing alone.
Iridium Runners is great for what it is: a budget-priced racer on an aging console. If you’ve got a spare $15 and want a new game in your local versus rotation then Iridium Runners is a solid choice.