No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise

Touchdown!

Version tested PlayStation 3

At the halfway point of No More Heroes, a boss pontificates to Travis Touchdown on the nature of being an assassin. "Seeking meaning in everything is a bad habit," Travis deadpans, before suplexing the peg-legged mentalist into submission and dumping her body in a sandhole.

Holly Summers is one of many bosses in No More Heroes, which is more or less a game about boss fights. A gaggle of semi-psychotic originals and archetypes - each introduced painstakingly, dispatched quickly, and dying slowly - they're the constant in a bizarre world as puerile as it is profound, as mundane as it is thrilling.

It's also an old Wii game, and here things get a little confusing. No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise is an HD port originally released for 360 and PS3 over a year ago in Japan. However, this version of Heroes' Paradise also includes Move support and a bevvy of extras that range from welcome to queasily sexual. It's also the first European release of the game with all of the gore intact - the Wii release replaced blood with black pixels, an effect that worked pretty well, if you ask us.

The jump to PS3 is not a small one, but Heroes' Paradise has great material to work with. The setup: Travis is the 11th-ranked assassin in the world, and under direction from the irresistibly saucy Sylvia Christel (a petite French blonde perfectly sculpted to give any nerd the ooh-la-las), has to kill the ten assassins above him to climb up the ranks.

The combat system looks beautiful and feels great. Travis' 'beam katana' is No More Heroes' greatest visual flourish, its luminescent twirling and crackling lighting up every encounter and finishing it off with a great big bang of a swing.

The Move controls are a headline feature, but No More Heroes isn't really a motion-control game so much as a game with motion-control elements. Finishing blows are delivered with a directional slice, the beam katana is recharged by vigorous shaking, there's plenty of mini-game waggling, and Move handles these simple actions perfectly well without ever feeling essential.

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Travis' Dark Side abilities (read: super invincible death mode) can now be saved up until needed, a welcome tweak.

Fighting is a mixture of parry timing, frantic button mashing and spectacular QTE finishing moves, and it's a system where the depth is stylistic - fight cautiously and Travis guards bullets and blows like Obi-Wan, cracking out with his own flurries in the instant of an opening and ending with a clean blow. Parry everything and he begins breakdancing and executing near-invisible samurai sword swipes to lop up the packed thugs and coat the screen in blood.

Add a library of classic wrestling moves picked up throughout the adventure, which let you go all lucha libre on stunned enemies, and every fight's a little different. There are too few enemy types, unfortunately, but perhaps they only seem samey in the context of the bosses.

Each one is a trump card for No More Heroes, and developer Grasshopper Manufacture knows it, saving up all the best ideas for these regular high points. Dr Peace, second on the list and clearly based on Charles Bronson, serenades Travis in an empty baseball stadium with an Engrish ballad so good it was a single, before an awesome sword-versus-revolver showdown.

It doesn't let up: homicidal schoolgirls, dishonourable superheroes, white-trash witches, masked magicians and smoking hot amputees. Each of the assassins has their own style and set-pieces, and cutting through them - especially on Bitter, a difficulty unlocked after completion - is a rewarding challenge.

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The beam katana runs out of juice periodically, and has to be recharged through a very particular motion...

Then there's Henry, or as Travis calls him, "Mr Sir Henry m***erf***er." It's worth mentioning Henry because, if you like lightsabers, fighting him is the best lightsaber action going in games. It's not quite up there with Devil Hand (what is?), but it's hellishly close.

There isn't a single duffer among the game's marquee fights. Good job, too, because No More Heroes tests your patience between them. The town of Santa Destroy is a small open world that plays host to menial jobs in the form of mini-games, assassination missions, a few stores, some collectables and not much else.

Santa Destroy, taken for what it is, has charm. Travis' ridiculous bike, the Schpeltiger, looks like a Sinclair C5 and handles like a truck, but its flaming exhaust, wheelies and plentiful boost make it a fun ride - especially in first-person.

Much of the criticism aimed at Santa Destroy is technically fair and holds for this version of No More Heroes: it is largely barren, with stretches of nondescript block housing and boxy vehicles alongside the most basic of NPCs. But this isn't meant to be the kind of sandbox environment we're so familiar with.

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