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88 Heroes

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Developer: Bitmap Bureau
Release Date: Oct. 12, 2017 (US), Oct. 6, 2017 (EU)

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Switch Review - '88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition'

by Andreas Salmen on Dec. 18, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

88 Heroes is a chaotic 2D platformer that is as fun to watch as it is to play, where each level completed or untimely death brings a new uniquely skilled hero into the action.

Buy 88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition

With the arrival of Super Mario Odyssey, other platformer titles faced stiff competition on the Nintendo Switch. Then again, it's likely that no title, no matter the genre, would've been able to stand its ground against Nintendo's biggest icon. That's exactly why 88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition tried to sneak into retail shops and the eShop two weeks before Nintendo's signature title dropped.

Winning the award for the most irritating title, 88 Heroes: 98 Heroes — referred to only as 88 Heroes from here on out — is a 2-D platformer developed by Bitmap Bureau and published by Rising Star Games. While the game may not look the part, it is a refreshing take on an old and familiar genre. Its style and setup was reminiscent of 2015's Broforce, which dropped for PC. It's crazy, chaotic, and it has an interesting premise and funny character ideas.

Let's start from the top. The story serves as a loose framework to — you may have guessed it — include the number eight. We take control of 88 heroes and have to beat 88 levels within 88 seconds each, with an overall 88 minutes to defeat the evil Dr. H8 before the earth is destroyed. The story doesn't delve any deeper.

The standard mode in 88 Heroes jumps right into the action. During all times, we look directly over the shoulder of Dr. H8, who keeps track of our every movement and demise on a screen. Some of Dr. H8's foot soldiers walk through at random times and obstructs the screen, while Dr. H8 audibly and visually celebrates every single one of our on-screen deaths. Our heroes die frequently, especially early on, while we're still learning the ropes and rules of 88 Heroes.

At any given time, we're assigned a hero at random that (hopefully) has certain abilities to use to our advantage. With every death or at the start of a new level, we get a new random hero to play and die with. I easily lost 20 heroes in the first 10 levels during my first run, which is exactly why the game can be a real challenge. Every life lost is tragic in this game, as we can't lose more than an average of one hero per level. The biggest challenge, apart from the level design, is the randomness of the heroes, which makes it difficult to plan ahead.

Variety is usually good, especially since the Switch edition, as the title implies, has a few extra heroes to play with. However, at a certain point, variety can also be hurtful, especially in a game based on skillful traversal. While some characters feel original and well executed, others differ only slightly — if at all — apart from visual differences. The frequent changes and permadeaths make it tough to learn more about a particular character. Brief backstories are provided, but it is all too hectic and short-lived to care.

While the element of surprise and the lack of familiarity with the characters can provide some entertainment and fun moments, by the time we reach higher levels, those "fun parts" easily turn into violent frustration. Yes, having homage characters to Mario or guest characters like Rusty from Steam World Dig is cool and all, but the concept and design don't seem very well thought-out. It's the old argument of quality over quantity. Some characters, like the rocket-fueled goose with laser guns, shine because they're distinct and seriously mix up things, but you then get three characters in a row that only slightly differ in attack range, and it feels unfortunate.

Gameplay-wise, 88 Heroes holds up reasonably well. Apart from moving, jumping and occasional attacking, either ranged or up close, the gameplay is quite simple. Flying characters, the use of ladders to breach walls, and characters that can tear walls down make traversal varied. Enemies, platforms and turrets are placed in ways that become challenging over time, and the look and feel of the individual level seem visually uninspired and lack diversity — in stark contrast to the characters, who make it even more apparent.

Every few levels, we beat on a boss that tests our skills, but even those aren't too exciting. Overall, the gameplay is solid, but it's not bad or exceedingly excellent; it surely doesn't redefine the genre. The star of the title is the concept of multiple crazy heroes and the obsession with the number eight; the rest is mostly a means to an end. Nevertheless, fans of 2-D platforming will probably appreciate the challenge and breath of fresh air because there is some fun to be had.

Once a certain portion of the 88 levels is cleared, a few more game modes become available. In Solo, you try to clear the path with only one character, while The Magnificent 8 offers the same with a selection of eight heroes. People inclined to step up their game can train in individual levels to get better. The Switch version also includes a H8 mode with eight new levels that pose an increased challenge for the player as well as some achievements (more than eight, wondrously). While a single successful playthrough of the game can, by definition, not last you longer than 88 minutes, the design and difficulty won't work in your favor until you seriously sink your teeth into it. If you're an ordinary human being, chances are that you won't endure more than two or three full playthroughs before the novelty has worn off completely.

88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition is a crazy and entertaining game with a cool concept. However, the execution is not where it should be. It's not a bad game, and fans of the genre will appreciate it. At the price point of $30, there are better 2-D platformers available on the Switch. If you've already explored those and long for something new, you can't go wrong with 88 Heroes.

Score: 7.0/10

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