Travis Strikes Again: Fun and flawed (Review)

Have you ever seen that one movie, which seems like the best thing ever, but nobody has ever heard about it? Well that phenomena exists in game form too, and it’s called No More Heroes.

Two of the best games, despite their low sales, on the Nintendo Wii are No More Heroes one and two. While some may call the games juvenile or silly, their over the top aesthetic and love of all things geek culture make the games extremely endearing. However, a lot has changed in the eight years since NMH2’s release date, so the new installment, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, has a lot to live up to.

The game begins by showing a character named Badman tracking down the titular protagonist, Travis Touchdown, wanting revenge for Travis killing his daughter, Bad Girl, during the events of NMH1. The two duke it out in Travis’ trailer but eventually get sucked into the “Death Drive Mark 2”, a phantom video game console said to give anyone who can beat all six of its games a wish.

After escaping the first game, Travis agrees to help Badman resurrect his daughter, mostly because he wants to see if the console actually has any sort of wish granting powers and to test his gaming skills against the Death Drive.

The story on a base level is pretty far–fetched, but looking deeper, the game is trying to communicate a message regarding obsession in the gaming community and the lengths at which some will go to play games. The problem is that this message is lost at the end when the writers became a little too poetic in terms of the writing. Without spoiling it, the ending may be one of the most pretentious things I’ve ever witnessed, which is a little disappointing considering that the writing for the majority of the game is pretty strong and even made me laugh a healthy number of times.

The other odd part is that the story is largely told through a monochromatic text adventure within the game called “Travis Strikes Back”. I understand this was probably a budgetary constraint, and the game even pokes fun at that, but some players may find it to be a bit of a pace breaker. Personally, the writing helped me get past any issues I had with the story’s flow.

Gameplay wise, things differ from previous installments. Rather than an over–the–shoulder perspective, the camera is instead top down, similar to games like Hotline Miami which, incidentally, is referenced constantly in the last level.

Travis and Badman can swing their weapons lightly or strongly and can utilize special skills to give you the edge in combat. It’s a fun and satisfying system, helped aided by the sound design, which gives every swing and skill an audible crunch.

Multiplayer is fun as well. Players may fight a bit over which character gets what skills, since only a handful are useful, but it’s an enjoyable experience if you just want to slice and dice your way through some enemies. My only issue is that if one player gets too far from another, the one lagging behind gets teleported to the one ahead. It can be disorienting, and in some of the more maze–like areas, it can be infuriating. It makes me want to teleport to a different game.

The soundtrack as a whole is strong, but nothing special. The techno songs helps add to the game feel as you explore the levels. Unfortunately, it’s not as catchy as NMH2’s, but making a soundtrack as catchy as NMH2’s would probably require some sort of Satanic ritual.

Graphically, it’s decent, and for a $30 game, it’s worth the price, but doesn’t do a good job of separating itself from its contemporaries despite its high–concept premise. Levels don’t have a lot of variety, but the second level, “Life is Destroy”, is pretty creative with its suburbia setting. Travis Strikes Again is a game worth the price of admission. An entertaining story and satisfying gameplay are wrapped up in a celebration of geek culture. There are certainly a few cracks that can be glaring, but with two pieces of downloadable content coming soon that will add, new characters, levels and story elements, Travis Strikes Again is well worth its price tag and makes me even more excited for an eventual NMH3.

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