Reviews October 21, 2017

88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition

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Reviewed By: Ricardo Benitez
System: Switch (Also on PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Genre: Action Platformer
Rated: E10+
Players: 1
Cost: $29.95
Release Date: 10/12/2017
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Developer: Bitmap Bureau

Comedy is subjective; somethings are funny to some people while other things aren't. 88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition tries to be funny. Unfortunately, it’s humor wasn’t what had me in tears…

To be fair, I admittedly did chuckle a handful of times. That said, the frustrating levels and challenging game design is what inspired the tears…metaphorically speaking. The difficulty partly stims from the game’s narrative – the evil Dr. H8 has armed 88 thermo-nuclear warheads in a bid to hold the world hostage. If he doesn’t get 88 octillion dollars within 88 minutes he’ll destroy the Earth. In order to stop him, players will need to complete 88 levels in under 88 seconds (per level) within that 88-minute time limit.

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The level progression is the same throughout the game, in the sense that Level One will always be Level One. What changes is your controllable character. Each level has you control a randomized hero, ranging from lightsaber touting fish (Custard Trout) to a machinegun wielding muscle bound killing machine (Commandude). Some of the heroes are amazing, where a decent number of useful powers and abilities. Others like “What?”, who offers tips in a manner akin to Clippy from Microsoft Word, aren’t great options. I mean, I appreciate the help, but c'mon. I really just want to get through the level before time expires!

Part of the fun is getting to play a hero you haven't seen before and figuring out their trick. If the guy/gal/thing literally has no trick (Mr. Average, I'm looking at you) then the fun comes from seeing if you can still circumnavigate the level. At least, that’s the idea. The game controls well enough and every hero has a slightly different feel to them. My problem with this is that levels are a collection of traps and enemies, with one touch meaning the of death of your randomized hero. And I don’t mean death as in you going back to a checkpoint. I mean death as in, they’re replaced with one of the remaining heroes. This set up can lead to frustration as there isn’t enough time to truly get know how a character works. This is true whether you’re trying to figure out how to best use a weird hero or if you’re enjoying yourself with a “good one” – unless you’re lucky, your time with them will always feel short-lived. To be fair, you can collect coins to revive fallen heroes. This is good news if one of the better one’s kicks the bucket early. I’d also have to champion the game’s save feature, because having to start over from the beginning can be infuriating.

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88 Heroes’ HUD presents another annoyance. The action is viewed through a CCTV screen with Dr. H8 and his minions looking on while making snide remarks. Sometimes the action in the foreground obstructs your view of what’s going on, making it that much easier to die. This flawed design makes things feel more unfair than usual. Seriously, having a screen blocking animation for a game like this isn’t wise as it’ll only lead to more frustration.

There are four themes to the 88 levels, but all feel the same. All of the obstacles are introduced in the first ten levels or so. The graphics and sound, however, are lovingly created with the 90s gamer in mind. The music isn't exactly memorable, but some of the characters definitely are. Anyone who's played any 8-bit or 16-bit games will feel right at home and perhaps be a bit nostalgic for the simplicity of older titles. There are a few modes to choose from once you beat the default "88 Mode". You have "The Magnificent 8," which allows you to choose a team of eight heroes, and "Solo," which is a one hero one life and die mode. A Training mode is also included, allowing you to practice with any hero you have already unlocked. Helpful but not exactly what I am looking for in a side scrolling platformer.

88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition is perfect for the Switch. Not only does it feature all of the previously released DLC (bringing the hero count up to the title’s 98) including the recently released H8 Mode Activate pack with its hardcore levels, it also excels from being mobile. A quick game here and there while waiting in line at the bank or in a restaurant waiting for your food is where it shines. You can quickly pick up your Switch, load up the game, crank out a few levels, and put it down for the next time you have a bit of free time. Plus, you can’t get too frustrated if your sessions are brief. Beyond that though, I feel like 88 Heroes has a ton of potential. The gimmick is interesting for sure, but it could have been implemented in a way that was little more engrossing. Instead of being addictive, it can easily be tossed aside (like when a hero dies) for something more stimulating.

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All that being said, I mostly enjoyed my time with 88 Heroes. It won’t hold your attention like some of the other retro-styled games coming to the Switch, but it is worth booting up…whenever the mood arises.

Gameplay: 7
Strong control mechanics. Every hero feels distinctly different. One touch deaths get long in the tooth after a while.

Graphics: 8
Aside from the generic tile sets for objects and backgrounds, the heroes look distinct and different. Foreground characters and animations are great when they aren’t blocking the screen.

Sound: 8
Sound bites from Dr. H8 and the heroes made me chuckle. The repetitive jokes did get old after a while though.

Replay Value: 7
As a glutton for punishment, I definitely see myself going through 8 hero mode and maybe even a couple run-throughs on Solo, but most others will probably put it down after beating the main game.

Final Score:

7.5