Starting life as another entry in the now extensive Serious Sam series of indie titles, developers Binx Interactive and Croteam’s I Hate Running Backwards is a top-down rogue-like endless runner which features an eclectic roster of characters from publisher Devolver Digital’s many titles including Shadow Warrior and Hotline Miami.
I Hate Running Backwards’ titular gimmick sees you assuming the role of Serious Sam and other Devolver characters as you run through fully destructible levels, spraying righteous death in your wake. Each character has their strengths and weaknesses, whether it be Chux’s high damage and slow fire rate or Dancing Denzell’s high speed and low health, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to play style. With ten unlockable characters, as well as countless perks and modifiers, this game offers considerable depth in its personalisation and customizability.
This loop of high scores, unlockables and a one-more-go sense of compulsion is central to the game’s playability. I admittedly had difficulty getting into this gameplay loop. With my main draw to games usually being story and world/lore based, I often have trouble getting invested in arcade-style games. However I found I Hate Running Backward’s gauntlet compelling, feeling constantly urged to give it one more go to see how far I could get.
Each short level climaxes in a boss fight, each with their own unique attack pattern that takes some learning. Completing a level unlocks a shortcut to the succeeding level ensuring, should your winning streak come to a bloody end, you can either start from the beginning or carry on from where you left off. The nature of this rogue-like’s procedurally generated levels adds a layer of randomness which can render some runs unbalanced and overly difficult compared to others. Equally, however, the perfectly laid out level can enable the perfect run, and when you hit your stride with the flow of combos and power-ups, the hectic action is immensely satisfying.
The bold Minecraft-come-Lego blocky visual style imbues the game with charm and makes the chaotic flurry of bullets, enemies, explosions, and destruction spectacular whilst usually remaining legible. The audio design delivers suitably impactful gunfire and explosion sound effects however the repetitive soundtrack does little to add to the action. The addition of co-op amplifies the chaos, making for some frantic coach co-op fun while allowing an extra layer of depths and tactics with complimentary play style combinations and the ability to revive your partner.
With only five brief levels I Hate Running Backwards is a relatively short experience, however the randomly generated configurations of its levels, combined with challenge increasing modifiers, a wealth of unlockables, high score leaderboards and a trophy list which encourages experimentation, there is plenty to flesh this experience out. Despite this, the game’s entertainment value ultimately feels shallow, with it being best enjoyed in short bursts. This style of gameplay seems perfectly suited to handheld so it’s a shame I Hate Running Backwards is not available on Vita, however it is coming to Nintendo Switch in the near future.
I Hate Running Backwards is a thoroughly enjoyable pick-up-and-play game which provided a surprisingly refreshing change of pace among a year full of epic AAA titles. Whether you live for highscores, want a hectic, instantaneously gratifying couch co-op game or fancy some cathartic respite among the deluge of blockbuster titles, I Hate Running Backwards is an easy game to recommend.
I Hate Running Backwards PS4 Review
I Hate Running Backwards accomplishes its goal of chaotic, arcadey fun with addictive gameplay and plenty of challenge for those that seek it. This fun can feel a little shallow however, and with no real narrative, its satisfying gunplay and bevy of unlockables stand as the only features that sustain your investment. Its gratifying gameplay however make it great for short sessions and the smart addition of couch co-op makes it ideal as a bit of mindless fun with friends. Whether solo or co-op, I Hate Running Backwards is simple, addictive fun.
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Reviewed using base PS4.