Atomik: RunGunJumpGun ranks alongside Celeste and Super Meat Boy as one of the best tough-as-nails platformers on the Nintendo eShop. First launched on Steam back in 2016, Atomik (or, as it was called then RunGunJumpGun) sees you command a mini-gun wielding spaceman through psychedelic levels brimming with deadly traps. Arriving on the Switch, it comes with an all-new Shield Mode and the 120 varied levels included provide quite the time-sink when on the go. But does the Switch version present its definitive version and does it warrant a second purchase for those already acquainted?
Much of Atokmik's charm, just like the aforementioned Super Meat Boy, stems from its simplicity. With some unknown force propelling you forward you have all but two buttons to help you steer clear of the spikes, rotating saw blades, and homing missiles that line your path. By pressing the L button, you can use your mini-gun to hoist yourself into the air and the R button is used to clear oncoming traps and projectiles. Each level (depending on difficulty) will take you around 10-30 seconds to complete but you'll likely spend much longer finding your path to safety. Luckily for those who, like us, have 1,344 deaths on record, it doesn't take too long after failure until you're back into the action.
Illuminating your path are green orbs known as atomiks which are required to grant access to the three alien planets. Atomiks are the title's only form of collectible and are usually found in much harder to reach places, requiring some trial and error to collect. This provides an extra dash of challenge for more seasoned players and boosts replayability as it presents an objective beyond just making it from A to B. Their shortcoming is that besides receiving a higher completion rating you receive nothing in return for your hard work. It would had been great if the atomiks worked to unlock some exclusive bonus stages or even some concept artwork.
Atomik features 120 levels split across three worlds and it took us roughly four hours to complete (this doesn't count the hundreds of atomiks we were still missing). In some levels we were tasked with dodging the oncoming fire of an alien ship and in another we found ourselves cautiously tailing behind a saw blade that we had previously unhinged. There's so much thrown in along the way to keep things feel varied and whilst some stages do share an idea or motif they never start to feel stale. Some of the water stages did start to become a chore to push through though as they pretty much reversed the control scheme and it was hard to adapt initially what with the rapid response demanded.
Atomik's striking neon colour palate and pulsating electronic soundtrack catapulted us into a state of bliss. On the Switch it looked great in both docked and handheld mode and during our four-hour playthrough, we never ran (gunned or jumped) into any performance issues. Some of the explosion sounds did sound a little muddy though, which did start to grind on us as death is such a prominent part of the experience. We had to tweak the control scheme as the main commands mapped to L and R felt a little unnatural and caused discomfort after short periods.
As we stated earlier, the Switch version comes with an all-new Shield Mode. This enables movement speed to be decreased, giving the player much more time to react to the obstacles ahead. This is perfect for any newcomers who may feel a little intimidated by the game's harsh difficulty. The Switch, of course, benefits from its portability factor and we found the game to be a blast to play on the go due to how succinct the levels are. We felt that there was a huge missed opportunity, however, as the title failed to implement multiplayer, and with the second Joy-Con players could have perhaps raced each other or fought side-by-side to clear obstacles. A multiplayer mode on the Switch version would have perhaps meant it warranted a repurchase, and it would have certainly made it feel like a definitive edition.
Atomik: RunGunJumpGun is suitable for anyone on a budget seeking a hefty challenge. The simplistic two-button gameplay is layered upon with some excellent level design and we were soon to fall in love with its quirky presentation and accompanying soundtrack. It would have been nice, however, to see the inclusion of a multiplayer mode and some form of added incentive to collect up all those collectibles. At its modest price point though, its easy to overlook its flaws and its one we'd wholeheartedly recommend for fans of Celeste and Super Meat Boy.