88 Heroes Review
When you think of 80’s gaming you probably think of platforming, pixels, and superheroes. Video games were cashing in on colorful heroes to star in their games, and here we are, almost 40 years later with a new title that gives us everything we remember from the arcade days in a crisp, challenging, and humor-filled package. With the eye of nostalgia shining in every pixel, 88 Heroes sets out to deliver swift digital justice, but does it save the day?
Developed by Bitmap Bureau, 88 Heroes is unique in that it is built entirely around a gimmick of the number 88, and yet it works incredibly well. Dr. H8 is ready to bring about the end of the world, with 88 minutes left on the clock before total destruction. With the planet at stake, the greatest heroes the world has ever known have been called… but they were busy. Instead, 88 B-list heroes have come to take on Dr. H8 and save the world.
“The number of wacky characters is impressive”
The game is a simple side-scrolling platformer with short yet simple stages; in fact, you can often complete a level in moments without using a single attack. The key, however, is surviving. The game has 88 stages, each one with an 88-second clock. The level will begin with a random hero from the roster of 88 and each one is some sort of pun, spoof, or generally delicious joke worth groaning over. Each hero can be felled with a single attack or misstep, restarting the levels clock and assigning you a new hero to take over.
Stages can be frustrating as you get to the higher levels, with slight missteps or awkwardly shaped characters spelling disaster, but the overall experience is whimsical and charming. Some characters, like Mr. Average, don’t have much in the way of an attack – if any at all – while others will feature unique means of fighting and traversing the level which can make or break a stage quite literally. Characters like PIR8 the pirate are able to blast holes in walls to create shortcuts, while one of my favorites, Ladder Lola, has a limited jump and no attack, but can instead set up a giant ladder to climb up or down and completely skip over solid walls. The number of wacky characters is impressive, especially considering each one feels completely unique from the other: Laser Kittie can fire a laser clear across the screen, Rick Roll throws exploding hearts while dancing and Wang Wei has reversed controls. The creativity in this game is lighthearted and a joy to experience.
“Despite its unique concept and quirky humor, it feels like a game best used to pass the time.”
88 Heroes offers four modes of play: 88 Mode, The Magnificent 8, Solo, and H8 Mode. 88 mode is your standard gameplay, attempting to get through all 88 stages with 88 heroes. This is the best mode for unlocking the roster – viewable from the Training option – as those that randomly appear are automatically unlocked. Collecting 88 coins will let you resurrect one of three fallen heroes, which will be essential as you get further into the game. The Magnificent 8 lets you select a team of 8 specific heroes you wish to take into battle in the same 88 stages from the original mode, of course limiting you to the 8 you choose. I found I did much better with my handpicked team than with access to all the heroes the game has to offer.
Solo Mode is just as grueling as it sounds, attempting to complete the game with a single character. H8 Mode is an interesting feature in which the player has access to 88 heroes and must try to overcome 8 extra difficult stages. It provides an interesting challenge and helps hone your skills. Despite its unique concept and quirky humor, it feels like a game best used to pass the time. With the intentionally short length of stages and the simplistic nature, it’s excellent for the on-the-go gaming the Switch offers, but it didn’t strike me as the kind of game to sink hours into attempting to unlock all of the achievements.
As mentioned before, death can result from a number of obstacles and – while I understand the increasing difficult as you progress through the game – it sometimes didn’t feel justified. Melee enemies sometimes have an oddly greater range than expected, ranged enemies might shoot faster, etc. I admit to the deaths that were my own fault, but some of them felt undeserved. I also feel like at least a few of the heroes ought to be able to defeat an enemy by jumping on them, as opposed to simply dying as soon as they meet.
88 Heroes is an amusing and challenging platformer with a big heart, yet beyond its pop culture references, humor, and numerical gimmick, there isn’t a whole lot to offer gamers looking for a lengthier experience. The game is short by design and still greatly enjoyable, but despite its constant bombardment of the number 88 it still feels like its coming up short. As a game to have a laugh and pass the time, it’s a blast, being able to fire out a few missions or using it as an arcade experience to cleanse the gaming palette between games.
**Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher**
- Hilarious Characters
- Challenging Stages
- Unique Roster
- Fun Gimmick
- Undeserved Death