Steal A Dog And Ride It Like A Horse
There is a very clear moment when I realized I was enjoying Radical Heroes: Crimson City Crisis. It’s the screenshot below. I was riding a dog I had stolen from somebody’s backyard, wielding a balloon sword I had gotten in a Happy Meal, and I had just hired a police escort to help me fight enemies. The result was that not only was I doing a lot of damage, but I looked like I was leading a nonsensical parade, the king of somebody’s birthday party.
I gotta be level with you. Radical Heroes is a stupid, stupid game. Its story is literally nonexistent, its gameplay is nothing you haven’t seen before, and it’s absolutely riddled with technical issues. And yet, God help me, I can’t help but love it.
Radical Heroes is a sidescrolling beat-em-up heavily inspired by games such as River City Ransom and Turtles in Time, but with a twist: rather than taking place on a single 2-dimensional plane, your character can walk around a 3D overworld, a series of slightly non-linear levels that reward exploration with secrets, gold, and the aforementioned potential for stealing dogs. As you proceed through your adventure you will gain experience points, which can be used to increase your stats, and money, which is used to buy everything from new weapons to better combos.
The game leaves a really bad first impression. First of all, none of the controls are explained, and many of them are initially unintuitive (like the fact that the kick button is also the throw button, for some bizarre reason). There are police officers standing around with tutorial messages, but A) in what game, especially a beat-em-up game, have police ever been on your side, B) have fun pressing every button to figure out which one actually allows you to talk to them, and C) almost every message is full of typos, like so:
Typos in a game’s dialogue are a minor annoyance, even if you’re a writer by trade and you can’t help but notice them. But that is only the first of the game’s many bugs and technical issues. Audio will go suddenly from being completely silent to being eardrum-shatteringly loud. You’ll walk over coins over and over and it won’t register that you’ve done so and add it to your wallet. Shops won’t let you buy items that are unlocked and you can afford. I had multiple game-ending crashes, and heaven help you if you minimize the game without saving, losing all of your progress. Add to that boring and uninspired combat, and after the first hour I was ready to tear this game apart.
And then, about halfway through the game’s third level, the challenge started to ramp up significantly, not to the point of being frustrating, but to the point that I actually had to fight well. I started facing new enemies’ including the game’s first boss. And I started unlocking more items, leading to the aforementioned Birthday Boy Parade. And like I said, I suddenly realized that somewhere along the way I had actually started to have fun.
Combat is fun, fast-paced, and utterly ridiculous – a fast-paced dance of whirling chainsaws and throwing watermelons into people’s faces. The animations really sell the game’s humor – I love the fact that killing an enemy causes them to burst into flames no matter what you’ve hit them with. There’s a huge variety of weapons, some of which are actually more powerful but most of which are just for fun, and there’s lot of characters to play as, too. The fighting mechanics aren’t particularly deep, but they don’t have to be – the simplicity of mashing buttons to destroy enormous hordes of enemies is what made those classic games so much fun to begin with.
And I love the game’s little touches. Though not all of the pop culture references are particularly clever (there’s a character literally called “Snake” who looks like Solid Snake, which, um, I don’t think you’re allowed to do, Apogee), I have to admit I laughed out loud when I found I could add the “Pre-teen GMO Karate Frogs” to my party. And I loved that bringing my dog into the spooky Halloween-themed world (how appropriate) turned him into a ghost dog. This game is a great example of pulling off a simple idea with enough style that it still feels fun and fresh hours later.
That’s all there is to say about the game, really. Cheaply priced at eight USD, it’s up to you whether or not it’s worth dealing with the myriad technical issues just to enjoy some classic beat-em-up gameplay in a humorous open world. For me personally, I know I’ll be keeping a close eye on the game as it moves through Early Access, and it’s something I imagine I’ll be playing a lot in my limited free time, picking it up for a few quick rounds with the balloon sword. For all the game’s faults, I think it could end up being something truly special.
They’ve at least gotta fix those typos, though. There’s really no excuse.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Apogee; Developer: Mad Unicorn Games; Players: 1-2; Released: October 4, 2016 ; MSRP: $7.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Radical Heroes: Crimson City Crisis given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.