Hands-on Impressions from Travis Strikes Again’s Bubblegum Fatale DLC
It’s been almost two months since Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes had new content. We gave the game an 8 out of 10 when we reviewed it back in January, but it also had two DLC packs on the way. The end of February had the release of the Black Dandelion DLC, the first pack of the season pass. It added Shinobu as a playable character and a new backstory text adventure for Badman. While it was a decent addition, it wasn’t very content heavy, leaving us a little disappointed. With DLC #2, Bubblegum Fatale, it brings a bit more to the table.
To start out, players have to beat Travis Strikes Again to be able to access Bubblegum Fatale. Some plot points will come up, so even though they’re minor spoilers, reader discretion is advised. For those that finished the story originally, they would know how Bad Girl ends up. While she is advertised as a big part of this DLC, players still have to unlock her. Upon booting up the game, the player is immediately told about a new Travis Strikes Back scenario, which is the seventh and final part. This is where it all starts.
Travis Strikes Back is a very meta text adventure, full of cameos, references, jokes, and honestly, some pretty solid lore for the No More Heroes franchise. Part seven is no different, and for fans of the series, there are some nice surprises. Some questions get answered and some new ones rise. It’s best to let you see for yourself, but at the end of the day, this text adventure is how we get our “sixth” Death Ball. While not as extensive as Badman Strikes Back, it’s still an entertaining story. It also just goes balls to the wall insane, which is what we love about Suda51 games.
Upon finishing Travis Strikes Back, players will find themselves back at Travis’ trailer. A new version of Killer Marathon is now unlocked to play, essentially the full game. Upon booting it up, you can choose any of the three playable characters, though Travis seems to have the best dialogue. Travis being the gamer he is, he makes multiple fourth wall breaks about the fact it’s downloadable content. This kind of dialogue goes all the way to the boss, Silver Face, who’s a little peeved about being a DLC boss.
Getting to the actual level, Killer Marathon opens with a cool manga-inspired opening cutscene. It’s well animated and seems to have a lot of influence from classic manga series, though of which, it’s hard to pinpoint. When the game starts, our buddies Death and Drive are here to greet us. They give us a breakdown of what to expect; Killer Marathon is the most difficult Death Drive game. It’s full of traps, tough enemies, and probably the most difficult, a time limit. Despite this, Killer Marathon is also arguably the most well designed level.
Players will work through four themed sections, each sharing a pinball motif to connect them together. Flippers and bumpers are scattered throughout the levels and giant bugs continuously spawn pinballs. The first section is a bit hard to pin the theme, as it appears to be based on big city life. We see areas filled with cars (and subsequently, traffic), public transportation depots and also camera rigs. Perhaps it’s based on Los Angeles? Either way, right from the get go, players will see just how much the difficulty jumps up.
Travis Strikes Again has some areas where things get tough, but Killer Marathon is a whole other beast. Throughout my playthrough of the full game, I stacked up quite a few continue tokens. I used nearly all of them just to make my way through Killer Marathon’s sections. True, I could’ve chosen to start over and save them, but it felt like it was better now than never. Pinball flippers and bumpers deal minimal damage, but when hit by them enough, it can take a good chunk of health. It doesn’t help that you’re under a strict time limit, which makes it much easier to make mistakes under pressure. Let the time run out and you’ll be flattened by a pinball, forced to start over.
Making your way through the city themed pinball table, you’ll finally reach a plane that will take you to the next section. The second theme is a Western setup, with saloons, stagecoaches, canyons, and more. Warp portals get brought into the section, moving players from point A to point B. Other than that, nothing much different than the city area. Upon finishing this segment, you’ll reach a train, which for some reason, takes players into space. It’s worth noting that the music in this stage is a huge step up, as each segment has a killer track. It feels like they really stepped up the presentation with the music and it shows.
The space section has less traps for the most part, though one segment has a special gimmick. The middle segment will require players to be a bit more careful. Players will be given an oxygen meter, and they’ll have to limit their movement to avoid using up all their air. There are various pockets of air that can be collected to refill the meter, much like underwater Sonic the Hedgehog moments. The secret here is that you have to walk, as running uses up more oxygen. Luckily, the time limit is removed for this segment. If you want to get creative, you can use the 00 Chip to dash without using any oxygen, assuming your aim is good. There will be enemies and obstacles in your way, but once you learn to walk, it gets much easier to manage. Keep in mind, running out of air is an instant death.
Players will reach a space station at the end, facing off against a Sheepman to try and oppose them. Upon defeating the mid-boss, players will enter the space station and come crashing down to the Earth. This will take them to an underwater segment, the final area. This section doesn’t do much different, merely making obstacles shoot out of the ground like a geyser. This segment ends with a return to the city, making one final home stretch through an onslaught of enemies to get to the goal. Overall, it takes getting used to, and patience seems to be the key. It just takes working under the pressure of a time limit the challenge.
Finally, players will reach the boss, Silver Face. His dialogue is pretty entertaining, mainly because he knows that he is a DLC boss. The game takes advantage of this fact and hammers the joke home, being more successful than not. Silver Face himself is fairly challenging, but using the right skill chips can still make him fairly reasonable to take down. He has a grappling hook that can pull you toward him and a dash attack to cover a lot of ground. If he gets close, he’ll often unleash his inner Captain Falcon and pull out a combo of fire based punches and kicks.
Eventually, he’ll remove the barriers of the battlefield, which will spawn pronged forks if players get too close. He’ll use his grappling hook to remove himself from the field occasionally. When he does this, the bumpers in the area will emit lasers that will deal minor damage if you don’t avoid it. After dealing enough damage, Silver Face will eventually go down, and you’ll get his dying words. After that, you’ll get his skill chip and you earn the final Death Ball. His skill chip, “∞ Justice,” gives players Silver Face’s grappling hook, which pulls enemies into a powerful kick.
Now that players have all six of the real Death Balls, they summon what I like to call the “Eternal Tiger,” again. Upon realizing that all the Death Balls are real, he will finally grant your wish and bring Bad Girl back. This time, she won’t be so canine-like. Now with Bad Girl returned, Badman has a little bit of an emotional debriefing. It adds a bit more depth to his character and again, it builds on the lore a bit. This is especially powerful after experiencing Badman Strikes Back.
With Bad Girl fully unlocked, we can finally take her out for a test drive. Like Shinobu, she starts out at level 1, only able to level up a bit with already earned experience. She actually has a lot in common with Shinobu, as she also doesn’t have t-shirts, she doesn’t have a special save screen, and she doesn’t show up with Travis and Badman when getting sucked into a game. While the two have a lot in common, Bad Girl actually shares a lot of aesthetics with her father. She uses a baseball bat with laser-like nails in it, and she drinks beer to recharge. One of the best things about Bad Girl though, is she actually plays a bit differently.
Bad Girl has a unique combo with her heavy attack. Unlike the other characters, this combo only has two strikes, but that second strike is such a game changer. After her first attack, Bad Girl will launch herself forward and attack with her butt. Think Peach’s side special in Super Smash Bros. While it’s one less attack, the fact that it covers distance and has a high stun opportunity make it very effective. It’s a combo that arguably makes her the best character in the game.
Getting to Bad Girl’s exclusive skill chips, they’re pretty useful as well. Cleanup has Bad Girl strike the ground with her bat and set it on fire. For a limited amount of time, all of her attacks become explosive, and they all stun. It takes a bit of time to activate, but the result is worth it. Prospect is a simple attack, but it’s powerful nonetheless. It’s essentially a large wind-up swing that attacks in 180 degrees. While Prospect isn’t a huge deal, Cleanup is an essential chip to use for Bad Girl. Add this to her heavy attack combo and the right skill chips and she’s a deadly powerhouse.
Finally, with the update accompanying Bubblegum Fatale, there is a nice little bit of added presentation. The first Death Ball, Electric Thunder Tiger II, now has a new animated intro. It’s a minor addition, but it’s nice to see the developers continue to spruce up the game here and there. Even the addition of more t-shirts is always nice to see. Not only do more indie games get represented, but we also see games like Fatal Frame and Dragon’s Dogma get highlighted.
When all is said and done, Bubblegum Fatale adds a lot more content than Black Dandelion. It’s more challenging and it offers more to work with overall. Clearly the additional stage makes a difference. Add Bad Girl being a useful addition to the roster and you have a solid DLC pack for the game. Bubblegum Fatale is a part of the season pass for Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. It costs $9.99 together and the two packs stand alone cost $5.99 each. Players that bought the game physically should have the season pass included with their purchase. Have you played Bubblegum Fatale yet? What do you think? Struggling to find Jeane in the other Death Balls? Feel free to use our handy guide.