by Josh Pederson
Much like film, music and just about every other aspect of technology that was only available to a select group of people in years gone by, making video games has now become a new option for hobbyists and developers who want to make it under their own steam. And while this certainly has the potential to oversaturate the market with cheaply made indie games, it’s also a very beautiful thing to see. After all, the past few years have seen the release of some pretty horrible mainstream games. So the idea of video games made by people who actually play video games (yes, that was a jab at Nintendo) is incredibly appealing. We are in the midst of a renaissance of sorts, spurred by companies like Bitmap Bureau and their fun but chaotic 2D platformer 88 Heroes.
I’ll be upfront, I wasn’t too keen to play this game just because I’ve played so many like it recently, and I still haven’t finished Horizon: Zero Dawn or started Mass Effect: Andromeda. Then I actually sat down with it and was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it was. Now, keep in mind while the title makes it sound busy and daunting, it gives you a completely different feel once you start it, and like most modern 2D platform games, it has a story that plays out like an episode of South Park, where it sounds too strange to indulge, but once you do, you get wrapped up in the oddity of it all. The game’s main villain, Dr. H8 has an unhealthy obsession with the number eight, as you might be able to tell from the title. It’s August 8, 1988 and the world is on the brink of destruction thanks to Dr. H8. His demands are very unique, pay him $88 octillion within 88 minutes or his thermo-nuclear warheads will wipe out the earth. Thus enters the 88 Heroes.
88 Heroes is a strongly crafted game that stands high above most of the other 2D platform games that have been appearing on new generation consoles as of late. Not only does is it deliver a consistent experience, but it can also be played several different times in several different ways. For example, the way you would play with a character like Glass Girl is completely different from the way you would play with a character like Captain President, and that’s not just because they’re different characters with different skills, it’s because they have different timing and button layouts, both of which are key elements when it comes to getting through the game. However, that’s not even the best part of the game. In my opinion (which could mean very little in the greater scheme of things) it’s the story and the dialogue that really keep you interested through the fast-paced and at times repetitive gameplay. It’s not a game that takes itself seriously, and that’s one of the strongest things the game does. Much like 2K Games did with Borderlands, the in-game dialogue will literally having you laughing out loud.
If you’re not a fan of being timed when you play things, this might not be the game for you. As mentioned above, 88 Heroes has an 88-stage campaign that lasts 88 minutes. And if you’re one of those people who like to pick a character and stick with them for the entire game, this might also push you away. Once your hero dies, unless you acquire 88 coins, you can’t revive them. However, you can play with your final hero as many times as you wish (or as many times as it takes to finish the game). So unlike the side scrollers of yesteryear, you don’t have to worry about starting over when you run out of lives. If anything, it makes the game more challenging, but as we all know, gamers are an interesting breed and can be very picky when it comes to certain aspects of the games they play. Now, let’s talk about the characters. While a majority of them are fun, many of them are quite bizarre, and when the novelty of say a kitten that spits a giant green laser or a hamster in a ball wears off and you start to die more times than your patience would like (and trust me, it’ll happen), you might run the risk of throwing a controller at the wall or getting over it completely. While this game is incredibly fun for the adept, it can be very frustrating at times, especially for the casual gamer. It’s also important to note that because there are so many different characters, there’s going to be a lot of readjusting when it comes to controls.
The team over at bitmapbureau succeeded where many modern indie developers have failed. In an era of revival for 2D games, you really have to bring something special to the table to get people interested. After all, there’s a reason technology moved on from those old formats. 88 Heroes offers a fun premise with entertaining characters and gameplay that’ll keep you either infinitely guessing or infinitely frustrated. In either case it’s worth picking up your controller and giving it a try, whether you’re playing on the Xbox One, Playstation 4 or PC. And while the game only lasts 88 minutes, assuming you can get through it easily enough, there are 88 reasons to replay it. The soundtrack isn’t exactly the best, but all of the other great things the game has to offer outweigh the bad.
(Please note that for this review, Pop Culture Cosmos did receive a review model/code for the game from the Public Relations Firm, Developer and/or Publisher responsible for distribution to the press.)