Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No… It’s Super- wait, no it’s not. It’s Max Velocity! Sound familiar? Didn’t think so. When the best were summoned, only these ragtag bunch of “heroes” stepped up to the pl8 to defeat Dr H8. This is 88 Heroes.
88 Heroes is a retro 2D platformer, and a hugely ambitious one at that. You probably haven’t played a platformer as varied and interesting as this in a long time. If you haven’t already guessed, there are 88 Heroes to play as. There are 88 levels to conquer, all in 88 seconds. You’d best be quick though, because you’ll need to thwart Dr H8’s plan to blow the Earth to smithereens with his 88 thermonuclear warheads in just 88 minutes!
The 88 levels are set in four different zones, starting off in the office block of H8 incorporated, eventually progressing to the sewers (where else?), before setting your sights on space to take the fight to Dr H8, who up until this point has been sat in his spaceship, watching your escapades and antics, commenting every so often when you fail. You’ll hear gems like: “I’ve run out of freaks to annihilate” and “Oh, your insides look so pretty!”. Dr H8 will also partake in what I believe is called happy-slapping, by promising to post your failures on YouTube!
Dr H8’s incessant, but not overly annoying, presence adds another level of humour to the game, which is already pretty funny; the heroes’ bio pages are often hilarious and you can spot many pop culture, gaming culture and 80’s movie references if you look closely. Agent 0088 is a personal favourite of mine – one who prefers his Martinis stirred, not shaken. Dr H8 is definitely not human, but he thoroughly enjoys tea, slurping milkshakes, and laughing at the downfall of others. So… is he that different from any of us, really? Aside from holding the Earth to ransom for 88 octillion dollars.
Much of your time in 88 Heroes will be working through the standard “88 mode” in which you have access to the entire plethora of 88 heroes, one life for each. The heroes are randomly selected at the beginning of each level, or indeed when you die. This gives another element of luck to 88 heroes – you need to hope that the hero you are assigned is useful to the level you are on. With these heroes being some of the strangest, most pointless group to ever grace the earth, you should probably get used to the idea that you might have to complete some levels as a pacifist. Not through choice, just… some heroes have no way to attack.
Speaking of heroes, they are truly the star of the show. The level design is excellent, of course, and to have made 88 levels which are capable of being completed by 88 completely different characters is no mean feat. But the levels won’t win your heart. The heroes will. I feel dreadfully sorry for the artists at Bitmap Bureau who had to painstakingly animate 88 characters, however I’m sure they can be immensely proud of their achievement. Although I will say that whoever came up with the idea of Glass Girl – a character with a tendency to shatter into a million little pieces (literally) might be the personification of Dr H8 himself.
The other game modes on offer to you (which must be unlocked through standard 88 mode gameplay) are the Magnificent 8, and solo modes. In Magnificent 8, you will attempt to complete all 88 levels with just 8 heroes. In solo… yep. Notoriously difficult with a whopping 88, the other game modes are exponentially more difficult.
Often, I would find myself rushing into levels and subsequently burning through about five heroes before I would get the hang of where to go, and what to do. This might just be because I am generally awful at video games, but make no mistake – 88 Heroes is no cakewalk. It’s a punishing game, and you’ll have to use all your mental agility to think about the hero you are controlling before you embark on each quest. It’s probably worth your time to take a few seconds getting acquainted with what each character can and can’t do when they spawn – a small bio and cheat sheet pops up when you are in the spawn zone for the level. The bio especially is worth your time; it can substitute the bubbling anger inside you for a hearty chuckle in an instant. A definition of 88 Heroes’ difficulty would be hilariously difficult. It’s hard, but it is funny so you don’t mind.
I stand by what I said in my preview piece – it would be nicer to be able to resurrect/regain heroes who have died more easily. This would make the game a little more forgiving, but knowing that an old favourite who passed on is in the rotation would give me more motivation to carry on. It would also allow for a closer attachment to certain heroes – you would feel the pain losing El Delayo for the second time. Incidentally, El Delayo is a hero who suffers from a bit of button lag. Just a heads up.
Not only is 88 Heroes a brilliant achievement for Bitmap Bureau, but, more than anything else, it is fun to play. Maybe it can be a little frustrating at times, but that comes with the platforming territory. The varied and fun gameplay, the different level areas, the humour, and finally the music (which is a chiptune masterpiece) all add up to make a truly fantastic game.