88 heroes is a vibrant and chaotic 2D platformer that sees you taking on the role of a single hero from a roster of 88, that is, until you die and you’re thrown into the shoes of another hero. Your task? Well, you’ve got a total of 88 seconds to complete each and every one of the 88 levels within, but the kicker? You cant choose who you’re playing as, and each hero comes in various shapes and sizes, with their own range of pros and cons to boot. It’s a surprisingly refreshing change of pace from other platformers of recent times, and despite how simplistic the game may sound, there’s a great deal of challenge to be pulled from it.
The story revolves around Dr. H8 (could’ve guessed that one eh?) and even plays out from his point of view as he watches on from a large monitor, which is evidently where you’ll be playing. The year is 1988, it’s the 8th of august, and DR. H8 plans to abolish the world if his demands are not respected. That’s where the 88 heroes come in, it’s your job to put a stop to DR. H8 and his diabolical scheme. This may all seem pretty uptight and run-of-the-mill, but you’ll be surprised by just how much humour has been squished into the experience to balance out the tone.
Take the heroes for example, many of them are rip offs from iconic figures and game characters. You’ve got a Super Mario like character, a suave martini sipping James Bond like character, four Armadillos that have a likeness of our favourite Ninja Turtles, and much more. It’s an absolute joy to die and find out who you’re going to get next, and in a way, that almost feeds a level of uncertainty and anxiety into the mix. Most of the characters have been well designed and come with unique phrases and skills, such as having the ability to slow down time, mind contol, and heaps more. Albeit some of them are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard, whereas others are much more equipped for the task at hand. Hell you can even get flying characters and bypass any of the dangers within many levels unscathed.
That’s not to say that the game is unbalanced, because it’s anything but. It’s not hard to see how much work the developers have poured into this adventure to ensure that each and every hero suits each and every level. Where would the fun be if a single character could effortlessly nuke the entire game, right? Nevertheless, the devs have clearly had this game on the drawing board for quite some time, made apparent by the few delays the game was subject to prior to release. Safe to say that the finished product is one that is polished, well rounded, and utterly fantastic to immerse yourselves in.
Much like any game in this genre, gameplay is tough. It only takes a single hit from an enemy or projectile and the hero you’re playing as will take a dirt nap and your next hero is randomly drawn thereafter. The tension soon makes an appearance when you’re several heroes down and have more levels to complete than heroes to select from. It forces you to tread very carefully and judge your movements well in advance. It also means that you wont be getting too comfortable with any single character for too long. The downside to this, is that certain characters are completely useless. Yes Armadillo, I’m looking right at you. It’s a shame really, because the majority of heroes are well implemented and as aforementioned, suit each stage remarkably well, so when you do get handed the few dud-characters, it does become an annoyance when the character’s gag wears off.
Another problem for me was the foreground, and by that I’m talking about DR H8 and his staff that constantly get in the way of the monitor. It’s great that the developers have pushed forward a degree of awareness that you’re being watched, but the continuous screen intrusions does wear thin before long. I wont go so far as to say that it totally drags the experience down, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that it eventually chips away at your immersion. With that to the side there’s very little else you can groan about with 88 Heroes, and one of (if not the) best features with the game is how clever the levels are. There’s so many interesting mechanics and functionalities present, and just when you think you’ve got a handle of things, a new feature or intriguing obstacle will pop up for you to contend with. It’s fantastic, chaotic yes, but excellent in its delivery.
When you’re done with the main game mode, there are other modes to check out, such as solo and magnificent 8 mode. The former allows you to tackle the game with a single hero, where as the latter allows you to choose 8 specific heroes. These modes are brilliant for those of you that want to shave the random nature of play away, and enjoy something more consistent. Regardless, this game certainly plays at its best when you’re unsure about what, or who, is coming next. The music is yet another thumbs up from me. We’ve all played those games where the music slowly begins to eat away at your soul until you navigate to the options and turn it off completely. Not here, in 88 Heroes you’ve got a neat score that you’ll be head bobbing to, long after you’ve turned off the game.
88 heroes is a great 2D platformer that fans and newcomers alike will enjoy. The level design is fantastic, and although not every hero / character is as useful as the next, there’s plenty of content to enjoy within. The game is well balanced, unique, and comes with a great selection of functions and mechanics. There may be some problems with screen intrusion and select characters being completely useless, but everything else goes hand in hand to present you with a platformer that’s worth both your time and your money. Throw in some great music and extra modes for more longevity, and you’ve got one hell of an experience waiting for you to jump in.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.