Inclusivity has become a hot topic in games recently, with marginalised groups getting more of the spotlight as time goes by. There's still a long way to go before we hit equal representation, but one game looking to celebrate the LGTBQ+ community specifically is the aptly-titled Pride Run, celebrating the Pride events and the runs that happen all around the world, all while adding some extra flair in there for good measure.
Upon booting up Pride Run the soundtrack will hit you immediately, and you know you're in for a groovy time. It's a mixture of dance tunes that reminded us immediately of RuPaul, and there are plenty of tunes in there to discover, all of which can be accessed by a music player in-game too. It's one of the best soundtracks of the year for sure, and you'll find yourself dancing along in no time.
The music is more important than you might think too, because the Vanilla mode in the game is something along the lines of Guitar Hero. You have to time key presses with the beat of the song, with symbols coming along at various speeds, depending on your difficulty level. There's a colourful pixelated pride parade going on at the same time, but you won't find yourself savouring the sights when trying to get the highest score possible in the sequence.
Easy is quite manageable (well actually, the difficulty names are Virgin, Vicious, & Queen, which we loved), but the hardest difficulty is very tough, seeing you press and hold buttons and press two buttons at the same time, all at breakneck speeds. Rhythm-action fans will know what they're getting into, and the closer your press is to the middle of the symbol, the higher your point reward will be, with combos also holding nice rewards as well, as you'd imagine. This also adds replayability too, as you chase a high-score.
One gripe we'd have with this is that the actual noise emanating from the button presses often jars a little with the music over the top of it. It changes depending on how accurate you are with the press, but even when we were nailing it, the sounds felt like a clash with the music we were loving.
If you do manage to take a millisecond to look up at the parade you'll see a lot of craziness, and that's because the game has taken the colour and purity and joy of the pride celebration and cranked it up to outrageous lengths. People will join your float as you go, UFOs will show up, and there are rainbows everywhere. Inclusivity is obviously a good message at all times, but it's even better in such a sweet wrapper like this.
At the end of the parade you'll face off against a boss in a 2D-fighter-esque arena, including a definitely-not-Trump politician in San Francisco. There are two phases to boss battles, as button inputs determine an attack, first of all. Once that attack lands, you'll need to do a mini-game to inflict damage, from pressing all the buttons to timing a button press in a moving bar or inputting a sequence. The better you do, the more the balance of the battle swings in your favour, with a rainbow bar edging closer to the enemy.
They can fight back though, but using button presses you can again press another sequence to counter, at which point another mini-game will appear for you to try and deflect their attack. Succeed and the rainbow will continue to push towards them, but fail and it will retreat.
Once the bar gets to the very end you'll also need to launch a final assault, which is done by pressing a button sequence on screen. This will see the enemy overtaken by a wave of LGBTQ+ goodness, which may put a man in makeup or a Sailor Moon styled outfit - each is different.
In Pride Run you take these parades all around the globe, unlocking cities in Europe, North America, Asia, and beyond, and this is an important point because not all of these areas are as free to celebrate this lifestyle in real-life. It's really nice to be able to head to these areas even in the virtual space and celebrate this loving community, with the musical influences also changing depending on where you are.
The Play Hard mode, however, offers an entirely new challenge. This is a deeper experience that sees you control the parade itself, putting the rhythm-action to the side. Before each parade you assemble a squad of parade members, with a power number that you must not exceed (each member costs a certain amount), before setting out onto the streets to lead the parade. As the game goes on you unlock more units, and your parade becomes stronger.
Visually, this is much the same as you see in Vanilla, except you're actually controlling the groups. By using the left stick - since we played using a DualShock 4 - you can select a 'unit' and move them around with the right stick, and there are button inputs for available moves shown at the bottom. You need to recruit people on the pavement to join your party, enacting moves for them to enjoy when you're nearby, except different groups of bystanders need the corresponding type of unit to dance near them to get involved. There's also a stamina-style bar as well, so you can't keep doing moves endlessly.
As is so often the case though, there are 'haters' on the street as well, sending red, negative vibes into the parade to drain your stamina bar. You'll need defensive units like Bears to deal with this, as they have shield moves to deflect the damage, or you could get your leader (a valuable and powerful unit) to speed up and avoid the attack. There are even powerups to collect as well, with various effects depending on who activates it.
That's not all though, as managing and moving your 'troops' helps recruits extra units to make use out of, and mini-bosses appear during the parade as well, requiring quick button presses to send them packing. These are once again followed by the main bosses at the end of the parade, which feature the exact same system as the Vanilla mode, except this time your fingers might be a little less tired... maybe.
As if all this wasn't enough you can get a friend along for the ride with a party mode that lets you enjoy Vanilla and Play hard with up to four players co-operatively, and what's better for a game about inclusivity and love than getting friends together to share the love with? With 10% of all profits going to non-profit LGBTQ+ organisation Kaleidoscope Trust as well, you're spreading the love more than you think.
In a world where headlines aren't always that reassuring about inclusivity, especially for the LGBTQ+ communities around the world, Pride Run is a burst of love and energy that we need. It celebrates all of the things that make Pride so significant and important, but ultimately makes it a fun trek through the world to spread positivity to all. It's vibrant, it's bold, and it's a joy to play, which makes the messages inside all the sweeter.