I Hate Run­ning Back­wards

Light, breezy, fun... and pun­ish­ing as all get out

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents - DaviD Holling­wortH

DE­VEL­OPER TERACTIVE, CROTEAM INCUBATOR • P UB­LISHER DEVOLVER DIG­I­TAL • P RICE $ US14.99 • A VAILABLE AT STEAM store.steampowered.com/app/575820/i_hate_run­ning_back­wards

There’s

a lot in I Hate Run­ning Back­wards that we’ve all seen be­fore. The top scrolling screen, the nu­mer­ous bul­let-hell style powerups, the ‘roguelite’ ap­pel­la­tion that ba­si­cally means “We can’t be ar­sed de­sign­ing the lev­els, so let’s let the code do it”, and even some of the char­ac­ters – like Se­ri­ous Sam and Lo Wang.

But you know what? It all hangs to­gether very well, and there’s a sur­pris­ing amount of depth to the game’s core me­chanic, which sees you run­ning back­wards to­wards the top of the screen, as the level scrolls down, and en­e­mies ap­pear from below.

And holy heck do a lot of them ap­pear. And there’s all kinds. And the weapons are in­sane. And… my heart rate is go­ing up just think­ing about the level I got killed no be­fore writ­ing this re­view!

There’s not much be­yond that, re­ally. You pick a char­ac­ter – three are avail­able to start with, and more un­lock as you progress – and then into the ac­tion. Each char­ac­ter has a cou­ple of defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics; Sam, for in­stance, has three health but is a bit slow, while Shadow War­riors’ Lo Wang is less healthy but more mo­bile. Once you’re play­ing a level, though, ev­ery­thing else is ran­dom. I played one level where it was ten sec­onds be­fore a su­per tough mummy started crawl­ing up the screen after me, and an­other where there was an in­stant horde of bomb-handed mu­tants cry­ing for my scalp.

Level de­sign is pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated, but still man­ages some clever and chal­leng­ing com­bi­na­tions to ma­neu­ver around. The more you back into the top of the screen, the hard it is to both push back down to give your­self some room to ma­neu­ver, or spot up­com­ing powerups and crates. This is where the game’s depth be­comes ap­par­ent – it’s not just about shoot­ing bad guys, but us­ing the ever-scrolling ter­rain to chan­nel them in ways that lets you con­serve am­mu­ni­tion, or avoid en­e­mies al­to­gether – the bomb-handed mu­tants, for in­stance, run straight for you, but they also blow up on con­tact with ter­rain el­e­ments.

As each game pro­gresses, so does its com­plex­ity, as you’re dodg­ing more badguys, while also jug­gling two weapons quite of­ten – one trig­gered by each mouse but­ton. Com­bined with a spin­ning melee at­tack with a short cool-down, tim­ing each at­tack be­comes more and more chal­leng­ing, and mis-keys more and more pun­ish­ing. Weapons range from your ba­sic start­ing pis­tol – no, not that kind of pis­tol – and pick­ups of­fer­ing ev­ery­thing from ma­chine guns to rocket launch­ers, off-hand laser weapons and flamethrow­ers, mini-guns, and more.

The game is re­ally quite bru­tal, but in­di­vid­ual runs quite short. It’s a per­fect palate-cleaner game – quick to load, easy to switch to from other ap­pli­ca­tions, and over pretty fast. Un­less you’re good at it, which, you know… I’m pretty much not.

But it’s also just won­der­fully silly fun. Bright, chaotic in the all the best ways, and al­ways sur­pris­ing.

Oh, and oc­ca­sion­ally a gi­ant bull will in­vade the level and run across the screen side­ways...

The game’s hy­per-vi­o­lence is off­set by vivid colours.

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