Friday, October 19

Review: I Hate Running Backwards [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While I’d tend to say that especially with indies first impressions tend to rule I’ll admit that sometimes my expectations or misunderstandings can get in the way. When I got to play I Hate Running Backwards at PAX East I don’t know if it was the crowds, the fatigue, or what but as much as its setup seemed like it would appeal to me it just didn’t click somehow. Billed as a reverse shmup essentially, and full of chaotic arcade action, when the review copy came I started fresh assuming I’d gotten it wrong. I’m happy to report I had, and once my instincts that seemed to be hung up on wanting it to work like a twin-stick shooter were put aside I began to really dig what it has to offer.


With an amalgamation of characters from a host of indie titles including Serious Sam, Enter the Gungeon, Nuclear Throne (why is this not yet on Switch?), Hotline Miami (ditto!), and more you’ll be dodging and shooting up a storm. To discount it as only being a shmup would be leaving out what really makes it work though, and that’s the spin that acts defensively and will help you destroy the environment so you can accumulate gold towards levelling up and getting upgrades. The roguelike element that these introduce, given then you can never count on which 3 upgrades you’ll get to choose from at any given time, really add to the game’s longevity since each run can end up with a very different strategy and feel.


Aside from the randomized upgrades each hero you choose will have specific attributes or abilities that can pretty radically change gameplay. Probably my favorite one is the Gungeon Bullet who, ironically, can only use a sword that slashes and periodically shoots out, but who is regularly cycling through special weapons. This makes playing with him truly unpredictable but it can also be quite exciting. Some other characters have added health, move quicker, or have special abilities. You’ll need to play with each and take in what they have to offer to see which works best for you. On top of that if you want to tone the challenge down you can turn on Baby mode to give you a little more health, or once you some of the game’s tough bosses you can turn on their curses to ramp up the challenge more. Oddly, I found my ideal mix to be turning on both Baby Mode and all available curses but that’s just how I roll.


While there are quite a number of great shooters on Switch I can say there’s absolutely nothing like I Hate Running Backwards. With a unique mix of roguelike variety, pretty tricky and diverse areas and bosses, unique characters that shake things up, and quite a number of ways to tweak the difficulty up or down it encourages repeated play and experimentation. If you’ve got a friend who wants to join in you can even tear things up together, just be warned that the screen can get pretty full when you do that. Power-ups, upgrades, pretty insane special weapons (gotta love a shark-based gun), and a consistent challenge are all a part of the experience and as an old-school fan of arcade classics like Commando I’m happy to report it really feels great to go up against.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Absolutely insane shooting action with loads of special weapons and upgrades
  • Multiple unlockable characters, some with unique play styles worth trying out
  • The difficulty level can be tweaked in numerous ways to cater to your tastes
  • Very satisfying to play with a friend, though chaotic

Cons:
  • There’s a part of me that was hoping it would be a twin-stick shooter for some reason
  • Early on there’s definitely a learning curve as you try to understand how best to use some of the weapons you’ll receive as some take time to charge up or do damage
  • Some of the ultra moves that characters had I didn’t think were terribly useful given the trouble to charge them up