Running Jump Forward
I went into I Hate Running Backwards excited to play something new on my Switch – which has been sadly neglected lately. Once I got a hold of the game I instantly recognized some of the characters from past Devolver Digital properties (Rambo from Broforce being the most notable to me). These familiar faces were very welcome, easing me into a genre shake-up that was as welcoming as an old friend.
I Hate Running Backwards is a roguelike running shooter but with a twist.
Instead of running toward the sides or bottom of the screen you are at the top, running-you guessed it- backward with enemies coming at you from the bottom of the screen. It is shocking how used to the norm we get that a simple change can majorly mess with how you play these games. I was so accustomed to having the focus be on the top of the screen and running forwards instead of backward that it took me a solid hour to actually get the feel for the game and what to focus my eyes on.
I would frequently find myself focusing so much on my little running dude that I wasn’t paying attention to the enemies. Frustratingly enough, I would also pay too much attention to the enemies at times and would end up falling off a ledge or getting stuck on a wall which in turn left me vulnerable to attacks and even got me killed a few times.
Death, as with most roguelikes, is a pretty big set back in early parts of the game as each level doesn’t have a checkpoint. The good-ish news is after you’ve beaten a level you have warp points to the next, which is a nice addition if you want to skip the last few bosses you fought. There is a downside to skipping levels, however, as when you die you start all over from the beginning. This means any perk or experience level you had is lost upon death, so skipping levels becomes a trade-off of convenience for power, especially needed for the later bosses. That said, the perks are certainly helpful but never felt necessary so I would always find myself skipping to the current boss.
This wonderful roster of colorful characters continues with the outstanding boss line up.
Each boss has a varied look and feels to them, with a great mix of original designs and some more lifted from other Devolver properties. I had the most fun with the game during these boss fights, even if defeat along the way became frustrating. Dying during a boss fight isn’t a new experience, but after getting through a level and finding yourself defeated within 5 seconds of starting a boss fight, that death can feel a little cheap. It took me a long time to get in sync with the game and defeat the first boss but once everything clicks it was so satisfying to finally defeat my foe. If you’re really struggling, here’s a tip: the rocket launchers are OP as Hell.
Shooting is such an important part of the game, so I was happy to see such a great variety of weapons. Weapons range from rockets that do a ton of damage to throwable knives that get thrown in a such a way that it can hit multiple targets with one throw. There are also special weapons that can be shot individually or at the same time as your primary. You always start with a flamethrower in the special slot but the game is very generous with special crates to break and reward the player with a random new one. Most of these specials are pretty good, but there are a couple of duds in the bunch and unfortunately running into destructible crates can cause you to switch specials automatically, meaning if you’re enjoying your current special it’s often unwise to haphazardly crate dive.
Leveling up is relatively easy in I Hate Running Backwards, given that basically all you need to do is kill baddies and destroy the environment. Everything in these levels can be destroyed by shooting or doing a melee spin attack, which in turn gives you XP or what looks to me like coins. Once you get enough coins the game pauses and lets you choose 1 of 3 random perks that range from your melee spin move lasting longer to the ability to shoot while you spin. Each run can be further customized by choosing different characters as each differs on two stats, health, and speed.
I Hate Running Backwards is one of those games that feels like it was meant for the Switch. It is a game that you can hop on, play for 15 minutes, have a great time then put it down – or you can spend a few hours playing to really get deep into the boss rush. The rogue-like structure to the game makes replaying levels fell different every time and the boss battles add a nice flare and challenging gameplay. I Hate Running Backwards is like seeing an old friend – it feels familiar but new all at the same time.