No More Heroes
is a very literal hack'n slash, that walks right up to you, stares into your face, makes a snarky grin that would put Jack Nicholson to shame, and makes absolutely no apologies for anything it does.
I would appreciate at least a few apologies for what's been done, though.
The initial premise is this: In some strange sunny town called Santa Destroy, there's this fellow who likes to kill people for money, using a beam katana. Admittedly, beam katanas are pretty cool, and past the intro and the tutorial (which can be skipped between the different explanations, nice touch there), there will be a hell of a lot of opportunities to hack and slash.
The setting is initially pretty damn cool too, apart from the beam katana. There's some apparently neat writing, some apparently complex story going on, and a hero that's not even the usual kind of anti-hero. However, as it goes on and on, it occured to me that no, it's not a complex story, it's just a weird story that they don't bother telling all that well, in the hopes that people won't look behind the curtain, so to speak. Not that I was actively looking, but when all's said and done, the actual plot's a mess, simple as that. Sure, it's sometimes a pretty damn stylish mess, but you're not fooling me into thinking that "stylish mess" is an actual replacement for "good".
Getting past the gameplay itself, you're mostly button mashing - and it's pretty much the A button - along with some simple use of the Wiimote mechanic for basic finishing moves that helps not just obliberating the enemy you're killing, but often also the ones surrounding him. Whenever you use a finishing move, there's also some one-armed bandit thingie going on, which can allow you stuff like slow-down of time, faster movement, etc. Of course, being random, you can't really depend on these effects, and when they happen, it often feels like they're breaking the rhythm of the wholesale slaughtering.
And apart from the boss battles, the continous massacres tends to become -very- repetitive. In fact, if they had skipped the stages almost altogether and made this a boss battle affair only, it would probably have become a much better game. Shorter, yes, but said boss battles requires a certain tactic and finesse and pretty much everything you really don't do at all before meeting them. I mean, there's this wrestling thing you can do to stunned enemies, but with the exception of bosses and certain side missions, you can happily go through the game without ever using it. It makes that little of a difference to the hacking and slashing.
Some levels do try to have some variety put in, but hardly any of it really works to distract you once you get tired from hitting people with your beam katanas. One level even stops the boss battle before it begins, robbing you of what should have been the good part! Disappointing, to say the least.
In between the main missions, you can - and quite often must - take on jobs to earn money. not just for weapon upgrades and the likes, but also so you can actually start the next mission itself. Now, these missions can in themselves be somewhat entertaining, although while they're trying to get a fair amount of use of the Wiimote, they're not really that awesome either.
And while the side jobs are OK in themselves, it's hell to restart said missions if you think you're failing, or at least failiing to get the gold medal rank. If you fail, you have to start all over. As in, drive back to the job center, take the job a second (or third, fourth, etc), drive back to where you did the job, and then try again. Easily two minutes spent between every attempt at the job itself. This is, in one word, pathetic. Tony Hawk 4 set a golden standard to how such missions should be restarted (three quick button pushes, instant restart without loading), and there is no excuse for this standard not being used now.
And while the messy, stylish plot could make for a really neat and cool setting, the reality is that the town itself is, for all practical purpouses, empty. Yes, yes, I know, you can find money and t-shirts and some mystical balls hidden around, but there's really nothing substantial to do in Santa Destroy. The few people to talk to are inside shops, and the town could in its current shape easily have been replaced with a slightly elaborate menu so that you wouldn't have to spend so goddamn much time driving in emptiness from one place to another. Then we'd also be free of the single, hideous piece of background music that's put on when you ride your motorbike. Speaking of which, one single track for the free-roaming part? What is this, 1999? Nobody ever heard of the radio function in Grand Theft Auto? The rest of the music's also pretty much forgettable.
Although, if there was to be a menu, I'd prefer a different style of menu and general UI than the game has. The rotating minimap in particular is an abomination. I'm sure someone will try to sell it as "retro", but I simply call it very sloppily executed. The locations of treasure (which you will gain from an upgrade) can be tough to figure out because the spot tends to move around a lot as you move. Seriously, what's up with that crap?
In the end, my main take on this game is that there are some neat ideas here. However, the gameplay itself isn't really that original, and it's not, apart from some boss battles, executed all that well. The graphic design is at times interesting, but with a gazillion enemies looking pretty much the same, they're not exactly pushing new territory here. And if you as a game developer really care for your game and want the audience to like it as much as you do, you'd better put the spit and polish on it that makes it really appealing and worthy of my time.
I guess the enjoyment of the game is very tied together in how much you enjoy hitting people with beam katanas over and over. I mean, the very idea certainly sounds like a way to spend an afternoon or so. I figure that you probably won't regret to rent it and play through the first two bosses. After that, things won't really change or improve in any way, so if you haven't fallen in love with the quirkiness of this game by then, then there's no reason to own it.