Vertical Drop Heroes was something of a phenomenon. Arriving as a quick web-based time waster, the original game became a blockbusting hit for Nerdook, the one man developer behind it all. Now though, the Vertical Heroes are back, with a full HD version giving the game a huge makeover. It promises to be bigger, it promises to better, and it promises to be more epic than ever before.
But is it?
In a word. Yes.
Vertical Drop Heroes HD tells of a prophecy, one which speaks of numerous great heroes, all battling their way across strange and fantastical lands, in search of the Holy Sanctuary which holds the secret to eternal existence. That prophecy is all well and good, but as we all know, everyone thinks that is about them. This isn’t though, as Vertical Drop Heroes HD is a tale about the unnecessary deaths of the many heroes who sadly failed. It’s also a story about the one sole hero who did make it.
This tale is all played out in a rogue-like fashion, with randomly generated vertically scrolling levels holding the secrets that just need to be uncovered. With the choice of three bold warriors to choose from at the start of each game, with many more ready to be unveiled at the drop of a coin, it is up to you to navigate your way down and through the labyrinth ahead, collecting coins and keys, freeing comrades, unlocking chests, carrying out side missions and battling the most evil of enemies, all before confronting the end of stage boss and making your way through to the next of the rather lovely stages.
Now, as a rogue-like title, death is very high on the agenda. In fact, your first few run throughs will probably end after a minute or two – and even once you’ve dropped some serious game time into it, you still may find that to be the case. But fear not, as the Vertical Drop Heroes come in plentiful supply, allowing for you to jump back into the action with the next in your bloodline coming equipped with the exact same abilities as those gone before him, or as a whole new hero, one which will allow you to tackle things in a slightly different fashion. Whichever route you choose, you’ll need to be savvy in your makeup and clever in your mind, taking step after tentative step in order to discover the best route through to the end.
Leveling up is very much the key to your success, and throughout each playthrough, you’ll need to hunt down coins – which in turn can be used to increase the damage and health rates of future heroes, unlock new potential skills, or just stumble your way through the hidden horrors of each levels. The ultimate aim is to fight through all of the stages put before you, before then attempting the now customary, New Game+ mode. But it is only through trial, error and a whole load of grind in which you’ll succeed. Thankfully, a level teleportation system has been put in place, and so, should you wish to spend some of your in-game coins on something other than hardcore upgrades, will find that jumping ahead a few levels is the way forward. Be warned though, this is only possible once you’ve hunted down, unlocked and paid for the privilege – much like most of what is contained within Vertical Drop Heroes HD. Luckily, there isn’t a microtransaction in sight, but in-game currency is thrust your way at every opportunity, with coins spilling out with every death of an enemy, every block smashed, and every chest unlocked.
Grinding is something you’ll quickly get used to in Nerdook’s HD remake. Now, normally that very word is enough to put even the most hardened of gamers off of a game immediately, but that found in Vertical Drop Heroes HD is a grind of the very best kind. Much of this is due to the completely random nature that each stage brings, and whilst the further you progress, the more complex the obstacles and enemies you’ll encounter, the complete and utter change in each stage ensures that no matter how much you try to think it will, no stage ever becomes tedious, samey, or boring. Even if it did, the well created levelling up system that is constantly in place to tease you to have ‘one more go’, mixes your heroes up even more.
The enemies included are also very cleverly created, and whilst their placement – and movement for that matter – is completely random, whether you happen upon a trap and fill the screen with a whole host of evil doer at once, or decide to pick off each of the bad guys one by one, the options are there. You’ll come across standard walking, but not talking, sword hitters, magically flying beasts that reign terror down on your position and others which will happily shoot lightning bolts across the entire screen in order to take you out. Each will require a slightly different tactic to the next, and even though your auto attack system will deal out damage to the most nearby of enemy being, you’ll also need to utilise a couple of special abilities.
Each of these are limited in usage (although to be fair there are so many shrines to top up your abilities you’ll rarely go without), and chosen when you decide on your hero of choice. Again, completely randomly created, some heroes will come equipped with a mystical aura which draws all coins and gems towards them, whilst others make the most of a brilliant mega jump or turn things to gold. More still will go into the fight with extra health points, whilst others will decide that it’s a worthy hit of a skill and decide to take a number of chest keys with them at all times. As I say, the choice of which hero you take is yours, but chances are, once you find one you like, you’ll stick with him through thick and thin. For all my adventurousness, sticking with Cloudfinger XIII and continuing my long line of Cloudfingers, knowing exactly what they’ll bring to the fight was much preferred over taking to the stage with a new hero. Resurrection is a lovely thing!
For all the death and destruction that occurs in Vertical Drop, there is also the chance to channel your mind and head about things in the most serene of manners, embracing your inner monk and trying to complete stages with little fuss nor bother. Once unlocked, Peace Orbs fly delightfully around and should you keep away from trouble, refusing to engage in the fight, collection of these will see you leveling up like no tomorrow. It’s a great little change to the otherwise frantic nature that dropping in on the enemies brings, allowing for a completely different tactical opportunity. Also included is a split screen mode, giving the chance to head off into the randomness with a friend. Limited to local multiplayer only, it works well, and keeps the game as fluid as ever. It also allows for stunning coin hoarding opportunities and so should you find yourself struggling to gain enough shiny things to get you to the next level, it’s well worth grabbing a friend and getting them to join you for the ride.
So what don’t I like about Vertical Drop Heroes? Well, the pushing down on the right thumbstick in order to action something, whether that be opening a simple chest, rescuing a Knight in order to have him fight alongside you, or just opening a shrine in order to see what happens, is all a bit strange. But then, after a while, it all seems second nature and works as intended. I’ve also noticed a tiny bit of slowdown once there is a whole ton of action going down (and believe me, things can go from undisturbed to super chaotic at the drop of a hat), especially when reaching the end of a stage and having to deal with a couple of bosses alongside a host of standard enemies. It’s with disappointment that on each and every reload of a game, you lose access to your previous bloodline too, especially when you find yourself getting so attached to the characters in question. It would also be lovely to have seen the inclusion of some online multiplayer options – something which really could have taken Vertical Drop Heroes that little step further.
But on the whole, those negatives hardly make a patch on the overall joy and enthusiasm I have for this HD version of Vertical Drop Heroes. Perhaps it doesn’t have the legs to carry itself for weeks and then months down the line, but for the price and the amount of randomly created content on offer, it’s a bit of a no brainer really, delivering one of the most addictive rogue-like experiences I’ve ever played.
…and that’s because it’s bigger, better and much more epic than that web-based version you previously got addicted to.