Review – I Hate Running Backwards

I am a big fan of shoot ’em up games, but I’m also the first to admit the genre isn’t exactly flourishing with creative titles as of late, usually revolving around either a side-scrolling shooter or a top down shooter. I Hate Running Backwards, the latest offering by the punk rock equivalent of video game publishers, Devolver Digital, that tries to bring something new to the table with some roguelike elements and a perspective gimmick. The result was fine, but not due to its gimmick, that’s for certain.

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The beauty of barely knowing what the heck is happening onscreen.

The main premise of I Hate Running Backwards, like the title says, is that this is not a shoot ’em up game. You’re constantly at the top of the screen, moonwalking your way up through the map while killing enemies showing up at the bottom of the screen. Think of it as a “shoot ’em down” of sorts. Does it make much of a difference gameplay-wise? Not exactly: it might confuse you a bit at first, but that’s just a matter of perspective. The game’s main gimmick isn’t exactly innovative or groundbreaking. The fact it’s a roguelike, and a hard one at that, as well as its roster comprised of Devolver Digital characters, are a lot more interesting (for better or worse) than the fact you’re at the opposite side of the screen while shooting down enemies.

The fact the game’s roster is half comprised of famous Devolver Digital characters, such as Serious Sam, Shadow Warrior‘s Lo Wang and that one guy from Hotline Miami, is a cool feature if you’re into the company’s catalogue. Sadly, they are reduced to Minecraft-ish versions of themselves and you can barely see them onscreen due to their small size and amount of action hapenning at any given time.

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The only time you actually look forward.

The game’s roguelike nature is equally a blessing and a curse. It allows for a new gameplay experience every single time you boot up the game, with varied enemies and weapon availability. The problem is that the game is incredibly irregular when it comes to its difficulty: it can often be a breeze to finish a level and reach the super difficult boss. It can also turn out to be a living nightmare by throwing lots of fast ranged enemies at you, coupled with ammo scarcity and low availability of health upgrades.

Each character has his own stats and unique special attack. I played with Lo Wang for the most part due to his speed, but he ended up being a mute, without any of his famous puns and one-liners. Due to the fact this game was originally going to be Serious Sam-focused (as you can notice by the repetitive usage of the franchise’s Egyptian setting), the titular character is the only one featuring voice acting.

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I hate those bosses.

I Hate Running Backwards is a nice little title, even though it’s riddled with issues. It’s far from being the best shooter out there, and its main selling point isn’t exactly exciting, but if you’re looking for something new from Devolver (as this is one heck of a love letter to the company), as well as something to keep you busy until Ikaruga comes out on the Switch at the end of the month, you’ll most certainly get your money’s worth. If they ever do a sequel, I hope they hire Lo Wang’s voice actor to spit out a few so-bad-they’re-great puns.

Graphics: 6.0

Yet another game that utilizes Minecraft‘s art style. Due to the fact the environments are huge and your character is so tiny however, you won’t notice it that much and that’s for the best.

Gameplay: 8.0

The inverted perspective might look confusing at first, but you’ll get used to it after a few rounds. The gameplay is simple, the controls are fairly responsive.

Sound: 7.0

An overall decent, if not a bit lacking, selection of tunes, coupled with tons of sound effects and a few lines whenever you play as Serious Sam.

Fun Factor: 7.0

A fresh take on the classic shooter genre, and a nice way to have some quick fun for a few minutes, but the game suffers from having repetitive environments and somewhat confusing difficulty spikes.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Reviewed on PS4.
Also available on: Xbox One, PC.
A copy of I Hate Running Backwards was provided by the publisher.