Alright, now let go with your left… No, that was your right… And we’re both dead...
It feels like these days, there is no shortage of goofy multiplayer games that largely rely on wacky physics to keep the player entertained. To be honest, the first time I loaded up Heave Ho, I assumed it was just going to be more of the same. The latest game brought to us by publisher Devolver Digital, this time from developers Le Cartel, Heave Ho represents the fastest I have ever been proven wrong about a game in my life. With support for up to four players and a range of fun worlds, each bringing their own unique feature, Heave Ho is an absolute delight that could either bring you closer to your friends or lead to a real life slap fight.
In Heave Ho, players take control of strange creatures consisting of only a head and two arms. Tilting the analog stick in a direction will cause the arms to flail in that same direction, while pressing the L and R buttons will cause your character to grab any surface with which they’re making contact with their left or right hands respectively. Gameplay is simple - grab on and move your arms to navigate clumsily to the goal. Each new world, of which there are nine, comes with its own visual theme and gimmick, from swinging on ropes in the jungle to dealing with the lack of light in a cave. Every level can be played solo, but doing so doesn’t really have the same feeling as playing with friends. Half the fun of Heave Ho is desperately trying to coordinate with the other members of your group, cheering in satisfaction when you all flawlessly reach the goal, or yelling in exasperation when that one person lets go of the wrong hand and drops every one of you to your death.
Levels are also sprinkled with secondary objectives, such as coins that the player must grab and bring with them to the goal. These provide an extra layer of challenge as the coin removes whatever hand is holding it from play, causing cooperation to become even more important than it was before. Another way to earn coins is by playing minigames, activated by pulling a golden rope that will occasionally appear in a level. These mini games range from tossing basketballs into a hoop to matching somebody’s dance moves, and depending on how you do can result in a good coin haul at the end of it all. These coins can then be taken into a slot machine on the main menu, which will unlock costumes for your characters, many of which are based on characters from other titles in Devolver’s library. For those who are directionally challenged (like myself), the game also offers an assist mode that clearly labels your right and left hands so that you can usually know which button to let go of.
I find it difficult to find any real complaints about my time with Heave Ho, though unfortunately two do come to mind when I really think about it. Occasionally, while playing a level, a llama will walk by and cause a fart cloud to slowly cover the screen. While the humor the game is going for is obvious, the actual result among my groups usually ended up being that we had to stop playing the game for a minute, until we could actually see what was happening. Another complaint that comes to mind is that while a majority of the level gimmicks are extremely fun, a later gimmick involving rolling boulders just never felt as intuitive or fun as the other levels.
Even with these small complaints in mind, however, Heave Ho is a delightful game to play with friends. When my roommate and I sat down with it for the first time, we expected to only play for about an hour and call it a night. Before we knew it, we had been playing for four hours, laughing so hard I fell off my couch on several instances. It is the perfect game to pull out during a friendly get together or party, with a control scheme that anybody can wrap their head around and shenanigans that will cause just about any group to laugh until they cry. If you enjoy local multiplayer games, you owe it to yourself to give Heave Ho a try.