Unruly Heroes Is One of the Prettiest 2D Games of 2019
Unruly Heroes is a fun action-platformer with a beautiful artstyle, solid puzzles, and a lighthearted sense of humor. However, one shouldn’t let its kid-friendly artstyle fool them: this game’s platforming challenges rival those found in other 2D indie platformers such as 2018’s Celeste.
Unruly Heroes’ story premise is pretty simple: an evil force has taken over the land and it’s up to four heroes to save day.
Choosing between these heroes, Sanzang the wise man, Sandmonk the brute, Kihong the pig, and Wukong the monkey, offers some movement & combat variety. However, the game’s later levels had me using Wukong and Sandmonk frequently because their double jump ability really came in handy. Meanwhile, Sanzang and Kihong both can glide, which was useful is some areas but was mostly useless throughout the game’s 29 levels.
Players can switch between the four heroes at almost any time during gameplay and if a character is killed then their spirit bubble (or soul?) floats around for a bit until the player can attack it in order to bring that hero back. I liked this mechanic at first since it was usually forgiving but having to wait around until the soul bubble thing could be hit got a little annoying in the more challenging parts of the game.
And man, did this game become a challenge once I reached the last two worlds of Unruly Heroes’ four world campaign. The first dozen or more levels of Unruly Heroes were fairly easy but the second half of the game cranked up the challenge in really fun, interesting, and sometimes frustrating ways. I don’t want to spoil exactly what’s in store but I will say that the game’s artstyle and level design definitely improve in that second half. Additionally, each character’s unique abilities (such as Kihong’s ability to inflate into a big pig balloon) are used for puzzle-solving in ways that made me appreciate the game’s clever design.
Unfortunately, the same praise can’t be given to the combat mechanics. Unruly Heroes’ combat has some depth and whacking away at enemies on screen never stopped feeling satisfying but one shouldn’t go into this game expecting stellar combat gameplay. While the four heroes each have their own combat moves/styles, for the most part the combat is basically a lot of button mashing against unmemorable enemies. This became especially apparent while fighting the bosses, who I usually defeated by tanking hits and hitting the square button a lot.
When you’re finished with Unruly Heroes, there’s a decent amount of content to keep you coming back. The game’s ranking system grades the player on how long they took to complete each level and how many times they died along with three difficulty modes: easy, normal, and hard.
There’s also collectables such as coins that can be used to buy character skins (each hero has four skins which includes their default one) and scrolls that unlock extra artwork. Unruly Heroes also has a PvP and a four-player local co-op mode, both of which I wasn’t able to try out myself while reviewing the game.
While reading this review, you’d have noticed that I’ve barely mentioned the game’s story and characters. That’s because the story and characters in Unruly Heroes are both lackluster. Also, the voice acting is amateurish and the dialogue is a bit too self-aware for its own good. Don’t expect this game’s plot to blow you away since, at best, it’s functional and inoffensive.
Unruly Heroes is a fun indie platformer with gorgeous 2D graphics, great level design, decent combat, and tight, precise controls. This game should be a real treat for fans of platformers like Celeste or Super Meat Boy.
*Reviewed with PS4 digital code provided by publisher*
- Great level design
- Beautiful artstyle
- Decent replay value
- Underwhelming story and voice acting
- Lackluster combat and boss fights