From birth we learn to shuffle, crawl, walk and then eventually run. All forwards. In fact, unless you want to come across as some crazy fool who is out to do nothing but garner attention, you’ll rarely run backwards. But that is exactly what the latest runner to arrive on console will have you doing, and even though its name may belie the fact, it is running backwards which you will be doing plenty of. Much to the disgust of Serious Sam.
But should you be taking this endless, procedurally generated, totally random, backwards runner for what its name represents, or is the magical art of running in reverse motion actually the way forward?
Well, as long as you’re determined to get past a tight opening few attempts, and then still wish to battle on with a relentless and tough runner, you’ll get a fair bit of enjoyment out of it. But it certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted.
That isn’t to say that I Hate Running Backwards isn’t a fun game though, for there is most definitely a decent amount of enjoyment found in just blasting the hell out of anything that moves – and everything that doesn’t – in order to gather up Mojo to unlock Perks, take on big bosses and find yourself placing on worldwide leaderboards.
Before you get to worry about all that though, there has to be a reason for playing through this runner, and Binx Interactive have decided that it is all well and good to throw Serious Sam and his friends into a mixed space-time continuum, before doing battle with the giant mech – Ugh-Zan – and his merry band of minions. This will take you through a multitude of time periods and environments, dropping Sam and his mates into wonderfully blocky Aztec jungles, the deserts of Egypt and more, all with a deadly boss awaiting at the end.
With a multitude of characters joining the likes of Serious Sam, Lo Wang and friends, I Hate Running Backwards won’t ever be found pushing the technological, the visual or the audio limits to the max, however it will see you testing your resolve as you shoot and swing your way to victory. The Minecraft-y visuals do the job intended of them, and even with a ton of action going down on-screen, seem to hold up well to whatever you manage to throw their way. This is no more true than in some of the latter stages of the ‘loop’ when enemies and Werebulls came flying at you with gusto – I Hate Running Backwards never skips a beat though, keeping the adrenaline high at all times.
A banging soundtrack accompanies your task and this most definitely spurs you on through the toughest of running times. And once you begin to get a hang of things, understanding that whilst shooting is pretty much par for the course, the option to utilise a rather neat melee swing attack will save your bacon time and again, you’ll begin to get joy with I Hate Running Backwards.
The characters that you get to spend time with are a decently varied bunch too, with Serious Sam coming across as the average Joe in this game, complete with an average health set and reasonable speed of movement. But then you find the likes of Chux allowing for more health but less pace, Shadow Warrior’s Lo Wang ditching a bit of health for a faster ultimate skill buildup and even more characters ready to be unlocked, and that is where the replayability comes in. A decent variety of stats and specials across the entire I Hate Running Backwards team allows good reason to utilise the entire field.
The majority will have to be unlocked, but when you do will find that each come with a fast firing gun attached and a swinging melee attack for dishing out justice to those foes who get too close. The chance to utilise a secondary weapon – shotguns, lasers, rocket launchers, singularity cannons, freeze guns, flamethrowers, bowling balls and more are all present – all depends on what you manage to find out in the heat of battle. An Ultimate Skill is available for each too, and whilst you won’t ever have to rely on these, they are a good option to have. Playing the field is key to the enjoyment found in I Hate Running Backwards and this is no more true than when heading in with ‘The Bullet’ as although his primary weapon is a bit rubbish, the secondary arsenal is a constantly revolving set of super special weapons that deal out massive damage.
Aside from visiting Egypt’s jungles and deserts, the random nature of each stage, and what is going to be put before you is completely unknown; that is what makes I Hate Running Backwards such a tempting affair. For as hard as it is – and there is no getting away from the fact that it is hard – the temptation of hitting the next level or Perk ensures that the ‘one more go’ attitude it brings is a huge draw. That is even more the case when you find yourself kitted out with multiple Perks to help you blast through things with a bit more ease.
A local co-op partner can also be dragged in for the ride, and this works well, although if I’m honest two characters on screen does come across as a bit of a muddle at times – especially when the enemy count and destructible environments really begin to kick off. It works well enough for those who have a sofa based friend alongside them though.
But, for all the good that comes out of I Hate Running Backwards, there are a number of issues which never allow this to become a must buy purchase. Game crashes that require a full dashboard reset are not out of the ordinary, complete level areas occasionally come bereft of enemies, and the dropped in mini-games that see you driving a car as fast as you can, or steering a boat up a river are just utterly random and break up the entire flow of the fast paced nature of the game.
And that’s without mentioning how difficult I Hate Running Backwards is. Obviously that in itself isn’t an issue, as there are many gamers who thrive under the pressure sent their way, but even with the ‘Baby Mode’ enabled, it’s still a tough old ask to ever make it through a loop of levels and take down multiple bosses in the process. Why on earth you would ever then wish to kick open multiple ‘curses’ from previously defeated bosses in order to make it even more difficult, I’ll never know. Perhaps that is best left for those more interested in leaderboard scores than sanity.
Should you wish to drop yourself into another game that features Serious Sam, or are in need of a tough blast through some procedurally generated levels, then I Hate Running Backwards will happily sort you out. It’s packed full of destruction and most definitely builds adrenaline, and they are the two real big draws, but I’d be hugely impressed if you were still playing it on a consistent basis a week or two down the line.