Once in a while, a game with a truly unique premise emerges. 88 Heroes has you control a variety of less than ideal individuals who each feel that they can save the day. The question is, do they have what it takes or should we just switch on the Bat-Signal?
Dr. H8 is threatening the planet so heroes from around the world decide to put an end to his plot. You play through the campaign by controlling randomly-assigned heroes. Of course, some are far more capable than others. You'll run into generic characters that can just run and jump, weak ones that can't fall from too high up, and plenty of quirky fellows, too. These include a character that advances time whenever they move (like in Superhot or Shadwen), a goose that controls like the ship in Asteroids, and a glitch who keeps dying randomly. You'll also encounter plenty of familiar heroes such as ones inspired by Bubble Bobble and Super Mario although they're far from flattering interpretations. You never know who you'll end up with next so this variety definitely adds a layer of excitement to every stage.
Whenever you perish, that hero is gone for the rest of the campaign. However, you can revive one as soon as you acquire 88 coins. Also, if you run out of heroes then you can play as your final hero as many times as you wish so here's hoping they're one of the good ones! That being said, you only have 88 minutes to complete the 88 stage campaign so you can't just keep continuing as time is bound to run out eventually. This setup is satisfying in that it'll push you to do your best. On the other hand, after failing again and again, you'll wish that it had a more forgiving set of rules that didn't make you waste hours of your time. Can you imagine having a solid attempt then running out of time a few stages short of the end? How about being stuck with an awful character after all the other heroes die? The formula may be promising at first, but it's sure to frustrate after only a few attempts at passing the campaign.
The visuals are mostly generic retro graphics that you've seen a million times before. One aspect that's enjoyable is that you view the gameplay through Dr. H8's monitor while his servants pace back and forth thus blocking parts of the screen. It can be annoying but it's so ridiculous that it'll make you crack a smile. Unfortunately, there are only four environments including an office, sewers, a volcano, and a space station. This makes the visuals severely lack variety. On the plus side, the audio is well done with arcade-like music and effects such as an announcer who excitedly introduces each hero. Overall, 88 Heroes looks decent and sounds great.
Before I wrap this up, I should discuss a few odds and ends. Besides the main campaign, there are a couple of extra modes such as one where you pick your eight favourite heroes and another where you challenge the campaign with only one. These are nifty variations but the game is basically played the same no matter which mode you choose.
Besides the often frustrating campaign restrictions, another annoying aspect is that there will be many unexpected deaths. Sure, you can pan the camera around the stage to see what's ahead but that's often not enough. The controls can cause you to accidentally miss jumps, unfamiliar enemies may unleash surprise attacks, floors can collapse, and hidden hazards might pop out of nowhere. The stages aren't randomly generated so it really forces you to memorize things in order to advance which can be a chore.
There's no denying that 88 Heroes is an innovative and ultimately enjoyable take on 2D platforming. However, its fun factor relies almost entirely on your willingness to persevere through its often infuriating campaign setup so make sure you have a spare controller!
- + Variety of zany heroes to play as
- + Challenging blend of restrictions will push you to do your best (at first)
- + Satisfying arcade-like audio
- - Many irritating surprise deaths
- - Roguelike progression with a campaign time limit can be exceptionally frustrating
- - Only four stage themes