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Pride Run

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Green Man Gaming
Developer: IV Productions
Release Date: Oct. 11, 2019


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PC Review - 'Pride Run'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 13, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Pride Run celebrates all things Pride, LGBTQ+ and inclusiveness as you lead Parades in key cities all around the world, encapsulating the fun, color, excitement and inclusive nature of all Pride Parades.

Your initial thought upon seeing a game like Pride Run on Steam is that it's another joke game. Not a day goes by on Steam without a game that is merely an asset flip or a title trying to pass itself off as a game with minimal effort, all coasting by on a terrible joke or dank meme. Landing Green Man Gaming as a publisher lends some credibility to Pride Run, since the publisher has release a number of decent titles. You'll find that the game is and isn't what one would expect from the title.

In Pride Run, you're a parade organizer who must help create the most fabulous parade possible while defending yourself from the haters. At the end of the parade, you'll come face to face with one of the major haters of the area and engage in a battle to ultimately humiliate them. This is mostly done in a lighthearted way, but how you go about it is wildly different, depending on which of the two modes you take on.

Choosing Vanilla mode gives you a standard rhythm game. Notes in the form of buttons for controller users or arrow keys for keyboard users come in from the right side of the note area. You hit them once they reach the vertical note bar on the left, and while accuracy usually plays a factor, the various symbols aren't very informative. You play an entire song, and once you reach the end of the track, you'll engage in a boss fight that plays out a little differently.

In the boss battle, you're given three types of attacks with their respective button combinations, but you'll have to figure out the required rhythm based on their flashes. Once you successfully initiate the attack, you'll engage in a minigame to land the attack and maximize the effect of filling up the rainbow meter. After the attack, you're given a chance to defend, and any unsuccessful defenses reduce that same rainbow meter. Hit the defensive move just right, and you'll engage in a button-mashing segment where you'll try to push the attack to the enemy. Fill up the meter completely, and you'll be given the chance to hit one final button combo to either humiliate the hater boss or get them to join your side before you move on to the next parade in the next city. There are roughly 16 cities in all, with the developers periodically adding new cities to the mix.

For the most part, Vanilla mode is fine, with two exceptions. The first issue is the mode's difficulty, which fluctuates wildly. Play on the easy or medium difficulties, and you'll need to practically not pay attention for a while to fail it. Play on the hardest difficulty, and making one mistake on the long notes is enough to kill the run, since the meter continues to drain as if you're missing multiple notes at once. There's nothing between the two extremes, so you're playing to enjoy the soundtrack rather than challenge yourself.

The other issue for this mode is with the boss fights, which can become boring yet convoluted in several different ways. It takes a while to sense the rhythm each segment wants from you, and even then, the game sometimes doesn't register a button press or calls it incorrectly even when you hit everything perfectly. There are a few different minigames for your attack sequences, but most default to button-mashing, robbing any excitement from the attacks. It also doesn't help that there's no real connecting theme between any of the bosses. Parodies of Trump and Putin make some sense, as does fighting off against online trolls, but while a wendigo may be an inside joke for residents of Toronto, fighting a skinny Yakuza member or a matador makes no sense.

While Vanilla mode is pretty straightforward, Play Hard is a much different affair. You're still running a parade, but the game changes from a rhythm title to a strategy. After choosing your city, you'll be asked to select the parade leader or leaders and the members of your parade, with points limiting how big the parade can get. From there, you'll figure out their initial placement before starting the parade.

Your job is still to complete the parade route, but now you're shifting groups from the center of the parade to the sidewalks, initiating a small rhythm combo to get the bystanders to jump in. The groups with symbols that match up with the bystanders will have an easier time getting the crowd involved and making the parade bigger. You can't button-mash the rhythm to get everyone in, as each group requires a cooldown before they can dance again. There's a lot of group juggling involved to get everyone to jump in.

Unlike Vanilla mode, there are small hater groups on the sidewalks, from far-right members to the KKK to the Yakuza, and it is here you'll discover that some of your groups have special abilities tied to their moves. The Bears, for example, have shields that can protect the parade from hate, while the parade leaders have their own special moves to nullify haters, speed the parade along, or put up even bigger shields. The route also has some mini-bosses, but they can be eliminated with button combos, and the route ends in the same boss fights as Vanilla mode does.

Aside from the concerns already mentioned with boss fights, Play Hard mode comes with its own set of issues. During parade setup, you aren't told what the groups will be, and you aren't given hints about their powers or affiliations. You're barely told which groups are on the route, so you go into every level blind. The only way to prepare for a good run is to jump in and lose, so you can hopefully have a better shot in your second run and onward.

Even if you get the right groups together, there's no way to tell how well you're doing. A meter tells you how far along the route you are, and each group has energy meters, but often, a unicorn appears to warn you about imminent failure, and you have no idea why. You'll lose at almost every run, even at the lowest difficulty — the complete opposite of Vanilla mode. Finally, while the controls make sense for a gamepad, playing with a keyboard is cumbersome due to a lack of mouse controls. Your arrow keys are still responsible for hitting all of the rhythm marks, but you'll use WASD for your group selection marker, and you'll hold Shift along with W or S to move the group up and down the lanes. These controls are slow, and even in the first level, it feels like an unnecessary obstacle.

The presentation moves between awesome and uninspiring, depending on what you're referring to. As far as the music goes, it captures the vibe of the parades well. All done by Hard Ton, the music is danceable and flamboyant while also being modern thanks to the chiptune. If you're looking at it graphically, the environments get some well-deserved pixel love, since the places are instantly recognizable and lend themselves well to the cities they're representing. The characters during the boss fights are exaggerated, and their animations are jerky, but they're fine compared to the characters in the parades, who are completely indistinguishable to the point where groups are just colors instead of collectives of different people.

There are some good ideas in Pride Run, but none of it really comes together to create an experience that's tough to put down. The music may be good, but the rhythm game is too easy unless you bump it up to the highest difficulty. The strategy game, although novel, doesn't do enough to get people interested. If you're willing to take the time to figure out the game, the strategy portion might be worth looking at, but for everyone else, the rhythm game would be a good warm-up title before you try something meatier.

Score: 6.0/10

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