I’ve always had a soft spot for roguelikes, and on initial inspection, 88 Heroes seems to tick all the boxes. 88 Heroes – 98 Heroes Edition has got a deep cast of characters, great art aesthetic, and while its basic gameplay concept is solid and executed in an entertaining way, a few key issues keep this superhero game from saving the day.
A raucous roguelike-like 2D platformer at heart, the crew of 88 heroes is tasked with saving the world from evil, because the “real” superheroes couldn’t be bothered. In the main story mode, a random hero appears at the beginning of each level, which is your avatar until you either die a spectacularly hilarious death, or complete the level.
Each hero comes with their own powers and abilities (or lack thereof) that aid or potentially inhibit you from progressing through the maze-like stages. The heroes and their talents are the focal point here, and they do not disappoint, but is also one of our two main gripes with the title. There was a lot of room to run with this idea. An apparent weakness in one hero in a particular area could be a massive strength in another, and while this is explored, it’s done so in a very limited capacity. Most of the characters end up as one-off jokes due to the lack of diversity in the level design, and after playing for a few hours, I found myself suicide-ing my avatars through the “jokes” I’d already seen until I got someone usable to play with. Heck, there’s even an option to “Denton8” your hero, which seems like a tacit acknowledgement from the devs that they know some of these heroes are totally useless.
GRAPHICS & DESIGN
The design of the superheroes is the main design element here, and it shines. Despite the indie-game visual aesthetic and tiny sprites, each character has a distinct and easily identifiable look and playstyle. If a portion of that effort had been put into more varied environmental design, I think this game would have been a total winner. It is clear that the levels here are generated off of a base concept, but there are a very limited number of traps, enemies and obstacles to conquer, and it gets stale after a while despite the varied characters. Also, despite the depth the fixed character abilities add a sense of dread and frustration when certain heroes pop up, when compared to say, Rogue Legacy, where even the avatar’s skills and characteristics are randomized.
As the game progresses, you do enter different environments, but again, it’s a very limited obstacle set that you’re faced with in each area, and I kept wishing for more variety. As a side note, the music is quite good, and an enjoyable accompaniment while you’re throwing your heroes into a robot-and-laser meat grinder. The retro-monitor overlay of the game is also a really nice aesthetic touch, but it just adds to the sense that this game could have been really, really good.
I had a game notebook growing up, filled to the brim with character names, hints, secrets, and maps. I take no issue with need to make notes during a gameplay session, RPG, Metroidvania or otherwise. I do, however, have an issue with feeling like I needed to take notes on the controls during this game, and take a lot of notes. How hard would it have been to implement a pause or menu system that brings up the controls for each hero? I certainly couldn’t find it if it was there.
There are so many heroes, each with their own control idiosyncrasies. It’s not just the abilities that change. Jump almost always jumps, but that’s about as consistent as we get here. I understand the gimmicky characters, like “Wong Wei” whose movement is reversed. That said, the controls are tight when the player is able to parse them. It’s getting to that point that’s the issue.
Overall, this game was based on a great idea. A roguelike with a cast of superhero rejects sounds like an amazing time. However, so, so many of the heroes feeling like a one-line joke that’s told over and over make the game tedious when set against uninspired level design. Still, I would recommend this if it were $10, maybe even $15, especially if you’re a fan of the genre. $30 is just too steep. By all means, if you enjoy roguelikes and see this for a NintenDeal, grab it… but for $30, call a real superhero.
Charlie’s first attempts at gaming did not go well. Repeated, failed run-ins with the first Goomba in Super Mario Brothers 1 plagued his maiden gaming voyage. Undaunted, he would go on to become an avid gamer of all platforms, with Nintendo always sitting atop the highest pedestal. Except for that Halo 3 incident in 2007. We don’t talk about it. It never happened.
Currently, Charlie enjoys playing games on as many platforms as he can get his hands on, with current favorites being the Switch, 3DS and Neo Geo. When he’s not playing games, Charlie is a live sound engineer and manager for his production company, Clear Harmonies, based in Washington, D.C.
Charlie enjoys talking about games nearly as much as playing them, and loves meeting new people, so hit him up!
Plays: All of them games. Seriously.