I Hate Running Backwards (PlayStation 4) Review

By Nikola Suprak 14.07.2018

Review for I Hate Running Backwards on PlayStation 4

The shoot 'em ups, affectionately referred to as "shmups" or "WHY ARE THERE SO MANY BULLETS ON THE SCREEN," isn't a genre that really gets much attention any more. Those games sort of peaked in the early '90s and are now more of a niche that receives an indie release here and there to little fanfare. I Hate Running Backwards, developed by Binx Interactive, is hoping to change that perception with some interesting tweaks to the classic formula. However, whether or not the genre really needed tweaks isn't entirely clear. Don't be mistaken, I Hate Running Backwards is a good deal of fun, but at the same time there are a couple of issues here that are going to dampen the fanfare a bit.

There is a story here, but it doesn't matter. This is a game about shooting and explosions and action and fun. The game itself is a shmup, but with a couple of notable twists. It does have the top-down view that many of these shooters do, but rather than moving forward, the main character is constantly running backwards (hence the title). Additionally, unlike most shmups, this is a roguelike and it uses procedurally generated levels. There will be, then, some variation between layout, enemies, and number and type of ammo that can be found on playthrough to playthrough. The goal here is obviously to add replayability to the title, and the game both makes sure to distinguish itself from other shmups and ensure that no two playthroughs are the same.

Before getting into other issues, it is worth noting this is fun. It starts off as that addictive, fast-paced, intense, action-packed feel that is almost unique to the genre. It can quickly devolve into that chaotic madness the genre is known for, where there almost seem to be more enemies and bullets on the screen than there are pixels. The game largely captures what made the genre so captivating in the first place, and the core mechanics here work, and work well. There is something immensely satisfying about pulling through a difficult encounter, breathing for like two seconds, then being thrown right back into the thick of things as another wave of enemies arrive with murder on their mind.

The core here is, of course, the action. There is a standard weapon that each character starts with, but there are also melee attacks, secondary weapons, and special weapon pick-ups to help make things more interesting. It's also possible to pick up perks while playing, adding special bonuses to the character that might give them the edge in battle. This is a difficult game, but that's half the fun. You will need to avoid incoming attacks while fighting off whole hordes of enemies and planning out what weapon might be best to use and when to conserve some ammo. It is just a great mix of action, and it does a lot of the things people love about the shmup genre almost perfectly.

Screenshot for I Hate Running Backwards on PlayStation 4

A nice feature here is the variety between the playable characters. There are 12 in total, with three being unlocked from the very beginning. A lot of the characters here are notable faces from other titles, like Serious Sam, one of the leads from Hotline Miami, and an actual bullet from Enter the Gungeon. The characters aren't just cosmetically different, either, as each character has their own special abilities and ultimate attack to help distinguish them from their other pals. This doesn't completely reinvent the game, but it adds enough of a distinction that each character usually has their own strategy.

Perhaps the biggest issue here is that there are diminishing returns on the amount of fun to be had, the longer the game is played. This being a roguelike, it is clearly meant to be replayed to some extent but there really isn't much of a reason to replay it. It is fun, but things begin to blend together after a while and it doesn't really matter what random assortment of things gets thrown out because it all feels largely the same. The variety between the characters is nice, but it sadly doesn't help correct for the similarity of the gameplay. For a roguelike like this to work, there needs to be some sort of substantial difference added between playthroughs, otherwise they all end up feeling slightly the same. While this is enjoyable enough as a shmup, then, at first, the roguelike nature of it doesn't really add anything.

If anything, being a roguelike actually detracts from the experience. There are plenty of ways that being a roguelike can benefit a game, but it isn't clear if it works in a shmup. The best part of the old-school shmups was the crazy insanity found in any level, and slowly learning the layout until something incredibly complex can be played perfectly. The level design suffers here because there is no real level design. It is always a hodgepodge mixture of whatever random stuff gets procedurally generated, and it feels like the gameplay suffers because of it. The core mechanics here are fun, but it feels like it would have been better if the developer took its time to polish levels and give a single, cohesive level. This might hurt the replayability, but the flaws of the basic formula here end up harming the replayability anyway.

Screenshot for I Hate Running Backwards on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Ultimately, I Hate Running Backwards is a fun, worthwhile experience. At the same time, though, it is largely a fleeting sort of fun. For some reason, it feels eerily reminiscent of those mobile games that people play in brief spurts while waiting for something better to do. It is that same kind of hectic, fast-paced fun that sadly doesn't really last and is forgotten about almost as soon as it gets turned off. It is sort of the videogame equivalent of being chased by a bear. Heart pounding, thrilling, but once you get away, you are just sort of glad it is over. This is just a couple steps shy of greatness, and even with its failings it is probably worth checking out for fans of shmups.

Developer

Binx Interactive

Publisher

Devolver Digital

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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