Pretty (Mediocre) H8 Machine
88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition shares more than a bit in common with BroForce, indie studio Free Lives’ cult classic from 2015. After all, both games are rendered in purposely-retro style, allowing you to take control of a stable of ridiculous characters based on pop culture icons, forcing you to adapt to their unconventional play styles as you go up against progressively more diabolical challenges. Unfortunately, while BroForce largely succeeded thanks to its fun and exciting stage designs, Rising Star Games’ 88 Heroes stumbles over itself with its repetitive challenges and large, but mostly unremarkable, stable of playable characters.
The premise of 88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition is as goofy as you’d expect. The villainous Dr. H8 is scheming to destroy the world on August 8, 1988 unless he’s paid a ransom of 88 octillion dollars. To save the world, players take control of a legion of 88 heroes of questionable abilities — the world powers tried calling real heroes, but they failed to answer the call — and infiltrate his headquarters, the H8 Inc. building, before the mad doctor’s 88-minute timer ticks to zero, activating his doomsday device.
Man, that’s a whole lot of eights.
Non-Stop Pop Culture
The goal of each stage is simple. Players begin each area as a randomly-selected member from your stock of 88 heroes and must work their way across a gauntlet of deadly hazards and Dr. H8’s goons to reach the floor’s exit. Things begin easy enough, as you simply avoid the occasional spiked pit or roving, weaponless baddie. But before long you’ll be tasked with toppling waves of enemies armed with swords and guns, navigating mazes of electrified conveyor belts, moving lasers, and even dodging waves of what looks like projectile diarrhea. Getting hit once means explosive death. That said, you’ll need time your jump and attacks perfectly. However, with just 88 seconds on the clock to clear each of the game’s 88 floors, you’re going to be burning through your stock of heroes pretty quickly when you’re forced to make hasty decisions.
Truth be told, I really dig the premise of the game. The problem is the cast of heroes themselves, who range from insanely overpowered to downright useless. For example, one character, Custard Trout, is a super-agile Jedi fish (yes, you read that right) whose energy sword has decent range, moves quickly, and can perform aerial attacks. Whenever I found myself in control of this Force-fueled fish I felt like I could conquer any obstacle.
A Motley Crew Of Misfits
Make no mistake, Custard Trout is a hero among fish-men. Sadly, the same could not be said for Ian_Error. This garbled hodgpodge of code hearkens back to Pokemon’s MissingNo. Only instead of just being a graphical vomit, he can cause the floor to glitch out from beneath his feet, sending him to his certain death out of nowhere. El Delayo is another character who will make your blood boil, as each controller input takes about a second to actually do anything. For what it’s worth, you have to respect that’s he’s at least true to himself. You do you, El Delayo.
Of course, these borderline useless characters are all part of the fun. They’re meant to cause a laugh, and honestly, they succeed for the most part. But with so many useless characters heaped into the bunch it’s only a matter of time before your amusement will start to devolve into frustration. Just wait until you’re stuck trying to navigate a room teeming with enemies and spinning lasers as Retro Reptile, who literally plays like a game of the classic cell game Snake. Trust me, you’ve never known sadness until you’ve had to try to make your way through a spike-lined chamber as the Flappy Bird wannabe Stroppy Chick. It’s. Pure. Hell.
To make matters worse, when you do ultimately burn through your 88 hapless would-be heroes, you can continue. The thing is, you’re stuck with the last hero you used. That said, if he or she was a real stinker, good luck. You might just want to start a new save file and call it a day. Hell, even the game’s UI is out to get you. The screen is displayed like a CCTV in Dr. H8’s office. Pretty cool, right? Well, it’s charming at first. But with his minions constantly milling about in the foreground it’s easy to get distracted or have a platform you’re trying to reach become obscured.
It’s unreal the steps the developer has taken to weaponize the game against the player. Seriously, it’s almost morbidly fascinating. Each sitting is like a study in digital sadism. This is a game designed to test not just your patience, but the durability of your controller and the sturdiness of your drywall.
88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition isn’t perfect. While the premise is novel, it squanders much of its good will by spending too much of its focus on tired memes and characters that make the game more frustrating than fun. Still, there are moments where things come together and the game’s underlying potential bubbles to the surface. It’s just a shame that these moments are often overshadowed by insipid level designs and middling characters who feel actively designed to irritate the player. If you’re a glutton for punishment and absolutely need a new platformer for your Switch, 88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition might be for you. Just know that there are plenty of better options out there to spend your money on.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Rising Star Games ; Developer: Bitmap Bureau ; Players: 1 ; Released: October 12, 2017 ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $29.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of 88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition given to Hey Poor Player by the Publisher