The life of a hero is never easy. It comes with the territory. Rick, the so-called Restless Hero, is no different. Out on a mission to avenge his wife, he’ll have to climb walls, jump gaps and avoid a whole heap of enemies and traps that are out to get him in this solid 2D platformer.
The story starts out strong. Your wife, Rosa, is accused of witchcraft and arrested by the Inquisition (I bet she wasn’t expecting that). You’re also dragged away for sticking your nose in, and end up being stabbed in the back and pushed down a pit into the castle dungeons. Unfortunately for you, all the traps down there still work and they’re crawling with enemies too. Like I said, it’s not easy being a hero.
Your goal is to find your wife, but you quickly discover that something bigger is at play. Intriguing stuff, right?
But playing through Restless Hero, the storyline quickly becomes muddled. Nothing is ever really explained, and the game raises more questions than it gives answers. If the developers intended to confuse with the story, then I applaud them because I was left scratching my head. I even played through things again, collected all the secret items and triggered both endings just to try and get a grasp of the narrative. And I’m still not sure what exactly happens. The poor English doesn’t help mind, making it even harder to follow along.
That said, Restless Hero looks great. The pixel style is perfect for the retro gameplay. It’s a nostalgic and well-worn art direction, but one that doesn’t feel outdated. Restless Hero does it well, delivering an aesthetic that instead feels polished and modern. Everything fits together nicely, with nothing that looks out of place. And then the original soundtrack is full of sombre tones as well. It becomes repetitive after a while, but in short bursts it really is the right backing for a dark trip through a dangerous dungeon.
The gameplay is also brilliant and is the area where Restless Hero really excels. Put simply, the game is a hugely enjoyable retro-styled 2D platformer, in which each level is a labyrinth full of traps and enemies, dead ends and hidden treasure. Creeping through these dungeons never feels like a chore though, due in part to the super simple, smooth controls. The difficulty is also just right. Restless Hero can get challenging in parts, but it’s never overly tricky, and so players should have no problem playing through this gloomy adventure.
To help with your journey, you’ll be able to pick one power from a set of three to take with you through each level. You’ll have to be tactical about using them though, because you can only use them a limited amount of times before they run out of charges. Thankfully, you can upgrade them to hold more charges, provided you find enough gold bars and green spells.
Those gold bars serve as the game’s collectibles. There are two in each level, and some are really well hidden, meaning that you’ll need to explore thoroughly if you want to find them all. Many indie titles choose to leave out any kind of collectible system, and so it’s great to see them included here. And to give them a practical function is also a nice touch, encouraging players to actually search for them.
Restless Hero isn’t without its flaws though. For one, you’ll find that the superpower system is much more limited than first appears. Only one power – Destruction – is actually useful. The other two – Invulnerability and Restore Health – aren’t nearly as good. Playing through, I didn’t encounter any situation where those two powers would have worked better than Destruction. And upgrading isn’t really worth your time either. Adding more charges to a power is really nothing special, and the hundreds of green spells needed for each upgrade threatens to turn the game into a massive grind-fest.
The ‘rush’ levels also leave a lot to be desired. There are five of these, and they involve you running away from an un-killable black mist. The platforming is as solid as ever, but the main problem is that nothing is done to distinguish these from any other level. Save for the mist, everything is exactly the same. These special stages ought to be more challenging than they currently are as well. The mist is a mild annoyance at best, and it floats around at a snail’s pace. In fact, it’s possible to run through a ‘rush’ level without encountering it once.
Still, Restless Hero on Xbox One is a strong outing; a remarkable effort by a tiny development team. There are improvements that could be made, but they do not detract from the fact that the game is a really enjoyable 2D platforming adventure. There is a lot to like here, from the unique story, to the brilliantly designed levels, to the polished art-style. If you add the slim price tag to the mix, you find a game that is absolutely worth your time.