These three warriors are after high stakes, but they’ll have to avoid the Whammies.
Babysitting was one of the hardest things I ever did before I fell into my current job, and I know the perils of a long commute. But I never imagined that I would see something as bad as Has-Been Heroes, Frozenbyte’s latest fantasy-themed adventure. The game borrows aspects of Trine in its character composition, but the core gameplay is wildly different. It’s a fun adventure, but I’ve reached the point where I’ve started cursing the Random Number Deity in Latin.
There’s a simple story in Has-Been Heroes that gets fused with aspects of roguelikes, lords management/MOBA combat and Plants vs Zombies. The party starts with a dashing, young Rogue who encounters what appears to be the last two living members of a kingdom’s main combat unit – a mage and a swordsman. Their mission is to bring the king’s daughters to school, but their path is filled with row upon row of skeletons and other demonic punching bags. Combat is explicitly row-based, as you control three lanes that the heroes stand on the left side of and attack enemies from the right. Each randomly-generated map sees a few battles and shops laid out before fighting a boss, and if two bosses are defeated, new maps and heroes are unlocked. Otherwise, new tools are offered for use depending on the number of things killed and the heroes try again.
In Has-Been Heroes, “if” is the key word. The randomness will get you eventually, and I quickly found myself staring at a 0-23 streak where I didn’t even get out of the first area, whether it was an icy forest or a dark one. Enemy placement, what items spawn, how much gold drops; all of it affects how the run will go. In the best runs, I could get as far as the second boss and manage to take about half of its health down before one of the heroes got hit a second time and died. There’s no revival that I was able to locate either, so one death forces a restart. Has-Been Heroes is definitely not recommended for the easily frustrated, or those who might fling a Joy-Con controller through a window, TV set, or other nearby expensive object.
The controls were another aspect that required some early adjustment. Navigating the map is done with the right analog, and R locks in movement. It took about two minutes after I cleared my first scene to figure this out since I’m not sure how many other games use the right analog for movement. Switching heroes between the lanes also can be a bit tricky for the first few attempts, and it wasn’t until late into the first night I played that I figured out hitting L was opening the spell menu (instead of just stopping the clock). Once I got past the control quirks, I was able to consistently press onto the second area unless there was a really bad enemy draw.
The Trine games on Wii U had great sprite art, and Heroes continues this roll. Although most of the enemies looked to be standard-issue skeletons, there are enough little touches on them that each type is noticeable and helped me develop strategies. The main characters are well animated. Although the music sounds fine at first, it faded into the background in favor of the sound effects. The crunch of an enemy kill or the sizzling after I stunned it with a fireball kept me trying again and again, even after I got wiped out. It’s great to have this type of game portably, as I was able to squeeze in an attempt or two in between phone calls at work. I didn’t notice any performance issues while running the game in any of the Switch’s modes.
I wish I would have gotten an opportunity to meet more of the Has-Been Heroes, like the anthropologist who became a luchador, and someday I will get there. Most roguelikes cause me to give up in frustration, but Has-Been Heroes is fun enough that I want to keep playing and someday have “teh urn”.