Games with addictive premises are only as good as their core gameplay. Vertical Drop Heroes HD may push you to keep trying but does the fun last long enough to warrant venturing into the unknown?
Vertical Drop Heroes HD's premise is simple. You play as a succession of heroes on a quest to find the Holy Sanctuary. You could consider it halfway between Rogue Legacy and Mr. Driller in that the RPG elements and lineage of heroes are from the former and the vertical stages where you travel down block-filled shafts are from the latter. You play by running, jumping, and attacking enemies. Combat can be a bit awkward so thankfully the developers added an auto-attack feature that basically has your hero slay monsters on his own accord whenever you're in close enough range. As you slice through foes, you'll gain gold and experience points that allow you to purchase temporary and permanent upgrades as well as level up. You'll need to do so in order to have a chance against the massive bosses. Overall, the simple gameplay setup is quite enjoyable and leaves a delightful first impression.
On top of the basic gameplay, you can also unleash abilities and special powers such as throwing daggers, deploying turrets, and performing super jumps. These have limited ammunition but you can pray at certain shrines in order to restore them. Other shrines allow you to exchange gold for power-ups or give you bonuses for fighting extra enemies. You can earn bonuses by completing little side-quests for the locals as well. You'll also come across keys that you can use to unlock treasure chests and free imprisoned allies who will fight alongside you. Another nifty system is that you can see how long you can last without attacking which rewards you with pacifist coins that disappear as soon as you kill an enemy. You'll need to use allies and hazards strategically if you want to still kill enemies passively. However, try not to trip any alarms in the process as they spawn additional enemies. Phew, that's a lot to see and do!
Before diving into the ten stage campaign, you can hang out in the hub area. Here, you can buy bonuses from a few shops. The Blacksmith will increase the heroes' base attack, the Apothecary can improve everyone's maximum health, and the Pacifist Monk has the ability to make pacifist coins worth more. On top of all these permanent upgrades, you'll also unlock extra weapons by performing certain achievements and find a merchant within the stages who will sell you additional starting attributes and abilities for future heroes. If you're lucky and reach a new stage, you may find a shortcut that you can purchase with a substantial amount of gold so you can start at that stage from then on. If you manage to beat the entire campaign, you'll unlock a New Game+ mode that only the toughest heroes around will be able to conquer. It's great that Vertical Drop Heroes HD features so much rewarding unlockable content.
A very cool inclusion is the fact that you can play with a local friend cooperatively in split-screen multiplayer. Doing so makes the screen a lot narrower but it also adds a lot of fun to the equation as you fend off monsters with a buddy.
The graphics and sound in Vertical Drop Heroes HD aren't anything special. I appreciate the hand-drawn feel of the art but it still lacks a sense of personality that many other indie games have. The music is a mixed bag as a couple tracks (especially the one that plays in the first stage) are quite good and catchy while others repeat far too often and will make you feel like muting the TV.
Although Vertical Drop Heroes HD's simple gameplay setup is fun at first, it starts to become repetitive and bland after playing for about an hour or so. Whereas Rogue Legacy has loads of variety, you'll start to experience the same situations over and over again here. Another huge downside is the fact that NPC allies and enemies are incredibly dumb. More than once, I rescued an ally who then fell onto a spike panel and just bounced up and down thus dying almost immediately. Enemies do this, too. You'll even see some monsters travel through the ground when they spawn. It looks awkward to say the least. Speaking of glitches, I came across far too many during my playthrough. Once, the game crashed and corrupted my save file. On top of that, I actually got stuck a few times which resulted in me having to quit to the main menu. These sorts of issues make an otherwise fun game feel like a chore to play.
Vertical Drop Heroes HD is a somewhat addictive yet short-lived roguelike adventure. If it wasn't for its awful AI and glitches then it would be a wholly worthwhile experience. Instead, you'll be better off just playing Rogue Legacy again.
- + Enjoyable "just one more go" 2D action
- + Plenty of rewarding unlockables
- + Being able to play with a friend cooperatively in split-screen is a great inclusion
- - Simplistic game setup gets stale quite fast
- - NPCs and enemies are incredibly dumb
- - Many severe glitches that take away from the fun can regularly occur