Finally! Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
Travis Touchdown where have you been? Missing since 2009’s Desperate Struggle on the Wii the otaku assassin has been on a long hiatus. The punk rock/luchador/retro gaming/everything aesthetic quickly made No More Heroes into a cult classic but never really hit the mainstream market in the way maverick creator Suda51 would’ve liked.
Nine years after his last game Travis is living his best life at the beginning of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. He’s hiding out in a rickety trailer on Texas with only his videogames and cat for company. In other words: bliss. That is until vengeful father Badman comes looking for him, armed with a six-pack of cheap beer and his trusty baseball bat. Their clash is interrupted when Travis’ videogame console the DEATH DRIVE (complete with Sega chant parody) sucks them into the world of his favourite game. From this point on the game becomes a top down brawler with different gimmicks based on whichever game Travis unlocks in the between mission text adventures.
These text segments are hilarious and scathing in their dissections of the gaming industry as well as a brilliant reminder of the series bizarre and engaging writing. Using these segments to fill in chunks of story that would be far beyond this games potential budget (with multiple characters both acknowledging and criticising this fact) makes for possibly the funniest game since the Portal series.
Unfortunately in the actual gameplay segments this style and wit is somewhat diluted. The hack and slash nature of each game can become extremely repetitive at times and the primitive dodge roll as the sole defensive maneuver can be incredibly imprecise. Later enemies possess absurd stunlock abilities that lengthen figures to an irritating degree. The rechargeable lightsaber weapon Travis employs has to be recharged which is fine in earlier battles but later on becomes an issue due to the lack of any way to lengthen the battery life: a bizarre progression omission.
If the individual levels were shortened then this repetition would feel less oppressive. Despite this each mission has a distinct feel, from the industrial neon hellscape of Electric Thunder Tiger 2, trailing a mass murderer through a puzzlebox suburbia in Life is Destroy and the vector graphics retro racing game Golden Dragon GP. The option to play the whole game with two players adds to the arcade charm.
However the unlockable abilities add a certain flavour to combat. I went with a set-up that made me feel like a very trendy Emperor Palpatine as I shot lightning from my fingertips and tossed enemies into each other like ragdolls. A host of unlockable t-shirts repping indie titles such as Shovel Knight and Hotline Miami are welcome but are mostly pointless due to the top-down camera, only really being noticable whilst Travis is on the toilet. Is that an intentional in-joke? When things get this meta it can be hard to tell.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is an imperfect yet heartfelt game. Suda51 has crafted a unique yet pained love letter to his profession with a wit and grace that many gaming storytellers could learn from. Flawed as his return may be it’s clear that the gaming world needs Travis Touchdown’s anarchic snark and bloodlust now more than ever and hopefully the numerous hints towards a fully fledged No More Heroes 3 are more than just comedic bluster.