There is a certain sub-section of games that arrive on Xbox One and get totally overlooked. It’s not because the premise doesn’t appeal, and it’s not because the visuals are a bit crap, but it’s because of the price point and lack of hype. See, throw out a new Battlefield, Forza, Destiny or Middle-earth title and you’ll get the masses flocking to it no matter how good, or bad, it may be. But rock up from out of nowhere and slap a sub-£5 price point on your product and the general masses will instantly dismiss it as a bit of tat. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly some cheap rubbish available from the Xbox Store, and I’ve definitely played a few games that still aren’t worth that low cash drop, but on the whole, the micro-indie scene is a thriving one, and it’s just a shame that many totally overlook it.
Hero Express is the latest game to hit Xbox One with a low price attached to it. But it would be an utter shame for anyone to dismiss this fun little driving game from Fantastico Studio as bargain basement crap. For it’s not that, and in fact, for entertainment value alone, it’s right up there with some of the biggest hitters from the gaming world.
Hero Express is a simple game in which you are left to try and help out an absent-minded superhero in need. For it is he who has gone into battle against the deadliest of forces without his weaponry, and it is here where you, as his Hex delivery driver, need to battle your way across multiple obstacle-filled tracks to provide him with his gear. As a narrative, that in Hero Express is poor, with just the odd (grammatically incorrect) static cut sequence providing a bit of brief background to the reason you are there. But we’re not here for story, and we’re not here for depth. We’re here for good old-fashioned fun gaming, and it is that in which this excels.
Taking control of a delivery man and his fleet of delivery vehicles, you will be tasked to hit the accelerator and work your way across no less than 11 different 2D stages – 22 if you include the Normal and Hard levels that are in place – collecting coins in the process and attempting to reach the end of each stage. Do so, and you’ll help your hapless hero friend defeat the forces of evil, no doubt saving the world in the process. That’s obviously a good thing.
But the task at hand isn’t as easy as simply moving from left to right across a screen and with each stage providing a different, rather unique, vehicle to use, your very best handling skills will come into play. See, the snowplow handles totally differently to the standard car, and that is again different to the space age long-wheel based racer, which in turn provides a unique test to the limo, the campervan or even the hearse. In fact, every single vehicle handles in its own little way and this ensures that the enjoyment never really stops in Hero Express, as once you begin to tire of one car, you can easily shoot over to another stage and attempt something a little different.
Each of the courses stand out from each other too – and not just in visual terms. Whilst lumps, bumps, jumps and grinds will all play a part, the beach themed events have you smashing through pineapples, the graveyard comes with zombies, and the snowy icy affairs are complete with snowmen and glaciers. All of these – and many more – obstacles need to be overcome in order for your success and to help you out the odd pickups are in place – namely the option to ‘jump’ and the chance to ‘clean’ debris from your vehicle. Both of these are used very sparingly in Hero Express, and so your ultimate goal will only be met through a major grind of your time.
Yep, the grind is real in this game and that is because your initial basic vehicles will struggle to allow you to make it even to the halfway point of the short sharp stages that are in place, all thanks to ever-decreasing fuel levels that dictate exactly how far you can travel. By collecting coins, you will find that only by upgrading your vehicles stats – Engine, Stability, Wheels, Traction – will you be able to move further along, with the ultimate goal of stage completion way out of reach of the earliest attempts. Running much like the worldwide mobile phenomenon that is Hill Climb Racing, the grind in Hero Express is a testing one, but it’s never such a ball-ache that you will want to turn off the game to shed a tear. In fact, with every stage open from the get-go, and each one providing just a few minutes of madness at any one time, that huge ‘one more go’ attitude that sees us gamers flock back to a title time and time again is most definitely present here. Particularly as it seems to run without a hitch at all times. In fact, for something so cheap in price, I’ve been astonished by the relatively high production levels that Fantastico Studio have managed to attain.
It helps that the basic pixel-y visuals are half decent for a cheap and cheerful little game too, and even though the music that accompanies your travels can fast become an annoyance, turning it down is always an option. Even more of a draw – at least on Xbox One – is the ease of which Hero Express gives up its Gamerscore too, with the vast majority of achievement popping occurring as each of the stages are completed, and as you level your way up and through the vehicles.
It’s not perfect by any means though and it would be lovely to see the whole premise expanded a little more. Sitting here now, just a few hours through the completion of the game, thoughts surrounding how a few more levels wouldn’t go amiss, how some online timed leaderboards would let you enjoy bragging rights over friends, and how a little bit of grammatical research and time to test the physics system entirely would iron out the most minor of points. But on the whole, these are fairly low-level inaccuracies that rarely raise their heads above the positivity on show.
And that’s because even though Hero Express on Xbox One won’t provide the ultimate test of your gaming skills, sometimes all that is needed in the gaming world is a title that oozes fun. And this is where Fantastico have succeeded, by creating a hugely addictive little title that keeps dragging you back for more.
Oh, and did I tell you that Hero Express is super cheap to purchase too?