Scott Watson reviews 88 Heroes…
I reckon Dr H8 has been watching far too many 80’s action movies, either that or he’s a big fan of Dr Evil. The plot to Bitmap Bureau and Rising Star Games latest release is the kind of straight up insane plot you would expect the main bad guy of these kind of movies to hatch! It’s ludicrous, it’s insane, it’s all a little bit crazy, but totally in keeping with the tongue-in-cheek humour and style of game that 88 Heroes is.
At 8 minutes past 8 on the 8th August 1988, the world teeters on the brink of total annihilation! Dr. H8’s demands are simple. Pay 88 octillion dollars within 88 hours or 88 thermo-nuclear warheads pointed directly at earth will be launched. It is indeed the kind of insane plot Dr Evil would be cackling maniacally for! …and with Earth in such danger, the best are called upon to save the day, only they were busy.
Agreed, as a plot device it’s pretty out there, but as I mentioned above, it’s all played with a knowing wink and a nod to bring the key game mechanic of 88 Heroes to the fore. With the best posted busy, it’s left to the has-been or never-been heroes to step forward and foil Dr H8’s plans. To do this, they have to infiltrate his base, find the 8 digit codes to stop the missles launching and save the day.
At this point you’re thrust into the game’s opening level of 88. That you have to complete in 88 seconds. You can see the pattern here. Anyone with Octophobia need not apply! Each level is essentially a multi-directional 2D scroller where you have to get from start to finish, all the while avoiding various trials, tribulations, traps and enemies. Each level is also like a love letter to all the great platformers of old; lasers – check, enemies patrolling parts of the level – check, saws travelling around platforms – check, spikes – check, multiple ways to the exit – check. Everything you could and should expect from a 2D platform-puzzler is here and put to good use. So far, so by the numbers right? 88 Heroes has a great little wildcard up its sleeve though, that elevates it to beyond a standard platformer.
At the start of each level, as well as having to find your way to the exit, you also have to contend with a random hero being selected to make it through. These heroes are indeed some of the most bizarre and unconventional to have graced gaming. Some have powers you’ll understand right away, others you’ll need to take a bit of time to figure out how best to use them. Some don’t seem to have a purpose other than for comedy value, but in a game where humour is always front and centre, that’s ok. There’s a lot of wonderful nods to characters in gaming and beyond too in the 88 Heroes; four armadillos with a striking resemblance to a certain set of turtles, or Gonan, a barbarian with a large sword used to break walls and enemies or my personal favourite, Rick Roll (who does exactly what you expect). You’ll recognise riffs on pitfall, bubble bobble, James Bond, Alien, Miami Vice and even one to remind us of a certain annoyingly helpful paper clip from years gone by!
You find yourself beginning each level living in hope that you’ll be given one that will help rather than hinder you, and that’s one of the key parts to 88 Heroes charm. Not knowing which hero is going to drop in means thinking on your feet through every level. Die, and the level resets with another random character thrown into the mix. The game, in essence, gives you 88 lives to complete it. Lose one and that hero is unable to be used again unless you find the gold coins around the level that give you the opportunity to buy one hero back once you have enough. It adds another layer to the mix on top of finding your way to the level end, avoiding the enemies and traps, searching for the coins and all of course under the 88 second countdown.
The game has a lovely retro art style, maintained thanks to the whole thing looking like it’s being broadcast and watched by Dr H8 on his own CRT monitor. Each hero has a lot of care and attention given to their animations, while Dr H8 looks on passing comment on your success or failure within the game. Humour wise, sometimes these games can be a bit hit or miss. 88 Heroes not only brought a smile to my face, but there were some real laugh out loud moments of narrative from Dr H8 or from the heroes themselves during play.
88 Heroes pushes all the right buttons to scratch that 2D platforming itch, it just may be over a little sooner than you think!
– Random hero choice makes you think on your feet
– Brilliant art style, animation and audio
– Some real laugh out loud moments of humour
– Random hero choice can prove frustrating at times
– Not much longevity beyond high scoring at game end
– May be over too quickly for some
Platform reviewed on: PlayStation 4 (also available on Xbox One, PC and Mac)