I’m generally positive about the light side-scrolling action game revival we have going.
Huntdown was radical to the max, and MiniLAW was at the very least interesting. So you know I had a good reason to give They Always Run demo a shot.
You’ll be controlling Aiden, bearer of a name reserved for protagonists who aren’t mean to just be square-jawed meaty men. He’s a mutant and a bounty hunter, though his supposed mutant third hand feels more like a bionic. He’s hunting down criminals in a far future space world where most scum don’t have firearms. This is great for Aiden, since he can use the third arm to gain an advantage in melee!
The third arm allows our hero to block enemies attacking from behind as well as the front… and then we run smack dab into the Assassin’s Creed Riposte issue. It’s just more efficient to just wait for enemies to strike and then instakill two dudes with the block. It’s also how you recharge the super hand energy.
Outside of broken mechanics, They Always Run also likes to get a bit tactile with the third hand. You can actually control its movements with the mouse to beat people up and hit special targets in the environment… and you can also do this: connect cut wires deep in a wall. Aidan’s real mutant power must be having perfect awareness with the third arm.
Of course, since this is a side-scroller, there are some extremely light platform sections. Jumping from ladder to ladder to chainlink fence is fluid and easy, and almost reminds me of playing Carrion.
Of course, as a side-scroller, They Always Run is also legally obligated to have a boss fight. What can I say about boss fights that people haven’t said millions of times before? They suck more often than not, relying on your dodging skill and pattern recognition over any real skills you developed in the game.
But, as I mentioned, combat mostly relies on you doing insta block kills. Going in with regular attacks is suboptimal and opens you up to the enemy. However, you’re forced to go in swinging when it comes to sniper dudes (who don’t attack in melee) and shield men (who have an unblockable charge).
All in all, They Always Run demo gets my official Seal of Meh. Maybe the feedback from the demo and whatever development time is left before release will allow the devs to improve the combat system and give it all some padding with lore. We’ll see.