Sometimes the games that just sneak out of nowhere and take you by surprise, and in They Always Run that is very much so, as up to a few weeks ago we had never heard of this retro inspired bounty hunter fest. Developed and published by Russian studio Alawar Premium, this is a title that is a blast from 16-bit gaming past, with real Mega Drive and SNES vibes to its brand of action. We are talking the likes of action classics like Alien 3, Judge Dredd and Vectorman.
You play as Aiden a three-armed bounty hunter who must hunt down the most dangerous and elusive cutthroats and scum in the galaxy, all the time getting paid doing so. Some bounties are rewarded with money, but others will give you valuable information that Aidan can use to find the people who set him on his path of revenge, which quickly leads to him getting embroiled in a galaxy-wide conspiracy. It’s an age old core tale about getting payback and it does the job, though oddly it’s actually the side quests and their story beats that breathes the most intrigue into the tale. Also worth noting is that none of the game is voice acted, which is a real shame as there is a fair bit of talking to get through at times to get to the fighting bits. On some occasions you are given an almost Mass Effect chat system. But once you’re done talking it’s time for action and They Always Run nails a perfect balance between platforming and combat, with everything sitting the right side of the thin challenging line.
You battle from planet to planet looking for your marks, all the time finding a number of upgrades – which help you get around the world a bit easier and this gives everything a bit of a Metroidvania tone at times. Combat is fast and fluid and once again it’s timing that is key, though in an interesting move Aiden can use his third arm to get an upper… hand in the fight, but its strength is linked to a power bar, which will only fills if you parry attacks. So knowing where and when to use it becomes very important. Visually the game is truly stunning and it uses a number of very cool effects to keep things very interesting, like having you battle through a section silhouetted as the sun sets for example. And each planet has its own look, tone and vibe and is always packed with details. Sound-wise the audio is good, though with there being no voice acting the soundtrack really sets the mood and has a very spacey vibe at times.
They Always Run is a bit of a hidden gem, though there is a disclaimer and it was a HUGE issue, as the Switch version had a game breaking glitch – which has been patched since it was highlighted, but such an issue should not be present in this day and age. We reviewed the Xbox version and have no real issues other than oddly clipping behind the scenery at a section, which was fixed with a checkpoint reload and to its credit the checkpoint system is solid and saves often. If you’re looking for a fast paced sci-fi romp that has some real 16-bit tone, this is perfect though it has a few rough edges, there is a lot here to enjoy.
An Xbox review copy of They Always Run was provided by Alawar Premium’s PR team, and the game is available now on PC, Switch, Xbox and PlayStation for around £15 depending on platform.