Travis Strikes Again – No More Heroes isn’t exactly another No More Heroes game. It’s a spinoff brawler in the same universe, where players get to control either famed assassin Travis Touchdown or his nemesis (and this time begrudging partner) Badman. It’s one to two-player co-op beat-em-up, but simply leaving it at that would do one of Nintendo’s best exclusives a serious disservice. Travis Strikes Again is the same weird and trippy fourth wall-breaking Grasshopper Manufacture we’ve come to know and love, but it’s also a good game at its heart. A good game in the same way Grindhouse was a good send-up of bad movies.
That’s not to say Travis Strikes Again – No More Heroes is a bad game. I’ve had a great time with it while solo, and even more fun when I made my wife play as Badman. But to say that it’s anything more than an artistic expression, a venting of frustration from a Suda-san’s first time as the director on a game in over a decade, would be misleading. This isn’t God of War, or Spider-Man when it comes to awe-inspiring action game spectacle.
No, this really is an independent roar of aggression towards the act of making and putting out games. The whole subplot of the game within a game that is TSA is basically an exploration of what happens when a developer tries to do too much and never actually manages to finish a project.
Suda-san has always been great at making games that touch on the meaning of life, art, and fandom without trying to make it too inaccessible. He’s one of the few videogame auteurs, and TSA is yet another game that immediately feels distinctly Suda51 and distinctly Grasshopper Manufacture.
TSA isn’t exactly pretty to look at, as it often mixes the surreal art of Boneface (which is awesome) with drab textures, set pieces, and ugly enemy designs. But that’s kind of always been the point of the No More Heroes world – it’s “indie” and imperfect to a fault. The gameplay is the same. Travis and Badman are traveling the world to find mythical Death Balls (games) for the Death Drive Mk2 that was never released to the public. The legend has it that if you collect them all, you can get one wish granted – and Badman wants his daughter back, who incidentally Travis killed in NMH. Try to keep up?
The thing about TSA is that it’s not very good as individual parts. But as a collection of send-ups to indie gaming, it’s perfectly serviceable. Its humor works most of the time, and if you like games like LET IT DIE and No More Heroes, this one is definitely up your alley. If you like weird and wonderful games by Suda51 and Grasshopper, this one’s for you. If you’re expecting a load of visual and gameplay polish the likes of which we saw from Yoko Taro, this isn’t that. This is very much in the “delightfully indie” realm.