Review: 88 Heroes (PC)

Developer: Bitmap Bureau

Publisher: Rising Star Games

Genre: Action, Platformer

Rating: E10+

Platforms: PC/Steam

Price: $14.99

 

When the evil Dr. H8 has a plan to take over the world, only the world’s greatest heroes can stop him. Unfortunately for you, all you have are these guys. Can 88 pop culture heroes come together and stop the evil doctor, or will disaster follow? Probably both.

Content Guide

Violence

The heroes can be crushed, impaled, burned and drowned, but it’s all done in a cartoony style. There are red specks that might resemble blood if they die.

Language/Crude Humor

There are things like exploding dynamite that has a bit of a Loony Tunes feel to it.

Positive Content

The game is about a bunch of misfits, each one unique in some way, trying to defeat evil.

Review

88 Heroes is a game where the credo “style over substance” is a fitting mantra. It’s a simple concept: the game is a side-scrolling platformer. It’s par for the course for an indie game, and there’s not a lot of depth to it (hence the shorter review), but the game is polished in a way that makes it shine. There are a few problems that prevent this game from being a true gem, but its self awareness and humor make it a lot of fun to play.

The plot is easy to describe, and yet very strange. The day is August 8, 1988. Dr H8 has a plan to take over the world. He wants $88 octillion or he’ll use 88 warheads to destroy the planet. 88 heroes, each with their own unique ability, have 88 minutes to complete 88 levels in 88 seconds each to stop Dr. H8. Every 22 levels there’s a boss battle. Even from the beginning, the game sets in with a type of humor that makes it apparent that this game shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The humor is hit or miss, and I admit I find myself more mystified than humored by this game’s octo-fixation.

The game’s presentation takes what could be straightforward and has fun with it. 88 Heroes, as stated before, is a 2D platformer that uses pixel art. This is par for the course of this genre nowadays, but 88 Heroes adds a little bit of flavor by having the “game” actually be a live feed from the point of view of the villain. The game is portrayed as a live video feed in Dr. H8’s laboratory. Dr. H8 will provide light commentary and on occasion his robot minions will walk by, giving the game a sense of life. It’s little touches like this that make 88 Heroes stand out.

You know the rules, and so do I.

Where the humor really shines, and by extension the game’s biggest selling point, are the eponymous 88 heroes. Each hero in the game is unique, with their own look, abilities and personalities. All the heroes have the same task: get from one end of the level to another, and they aren’t really balanced. Some heroes have a much easier time than others. For a game like this, this is actually a plus. Part of the challenge the game creates is how to get from one level to the next with suboptimal heroes. Some have may that this isn’t fair, but that’s missing the point. 88 Heroes isn’t always fair, but every level is possible to complete with any character. At the beginning of each level, one of the heroes is chosen at random. And if that hero dies, they are removed from the roster. In this way, the low tier-heroes are dummied out.

The characters are varied and different, and to my delight, a lot of them are pulled from pop culture. There’s a team of teenage mutant ninja armadillos, a shotgun wielding hero right out of the Evil Dead series, Schwarzenegger’s “Commando,” an Incredible Hulk expy, and a whole lot more. A lot of the heroes are pop culture icons and it’s a wonderful feeling when you get them.

No jokes here. This hero is just terrible.

Some of the heroes are really weird, and I’m not sure where they come from. They present different styles of play that are harder, yet feel more rewarding when you complete a level. There’s an alien who can reverse gravity, and thus traverse on the ceiling as well as the floor of each level. There’s a hero called “El Delayo” whose controls are purposely delayed. And there’s a juggling panda that reverses the left/right controls. My personal favorite heroes are Laser Kittie, a kitten that shoots a laser beam, and Beep Boop, a Silicon Valley developer who uses a drone to destroy enemies on the map.

88 Heroes was clearly made with tongue placed firmly in cheek, and it’s a lot of fun. There’s enough randomness for replayability, and there are a few different modes of gameplay to try. Instead of completing the game with a roster of 88 different heroes, you can choose 8 of your favorites, or even just one. The game has a witty sense of humor that doesn’t always land, but is done in earnest and can still be appreciated. It’s a game that could have been so much less, but took thoughtful creative liberties and gave itself something that often missed: identity.

The Bottom Line

88 Heroes is a fun platformer that has a special flavor of wacky. The randomness and surprises that come with each hero present new challenges, and the atmosphere the game establishes is always light and jocular.

 

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Simon Jones

God, games and good times. When not playing videogames, you can find Simon at the D&D table, doing parkour or muay thai, or napping.

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