Monday 18 June 2012

Hero Core (PC/Mac)

I like minimal stuff. I'm quite fond of beepy, minimal music, I like wide open spaces, and when work failed to pay me this week I just shrugged and convinced myself I was living a minimalist lifestyle. Then cried a bit. Anyway, with its simple, blocky, monochrome graphics Hero Core is very much up my minimalist alley, and with the additional nostalgic rush as I realised the game reminded me of a less mining-centric Repton I knew this was one assignment I wasn't going to weasel my way out of!

Much like my cousin's short lived plan to put a Cosworth engine in a Transit Van, Hero Core fits a sizeable amount of push into an unassuming frame. A quick glance at this game would suggest to a casual viewer something very simple, possibly running on an 8-bit emulator, but despite its small size and obviously basic looks there's a lot going on under the bonnet.

Hero Core sees Flip Hero, our hero, jet packing his way through a robot-infested maze, solving puzzles, killing stuff and generally heroing about the place. A range of increasingly complex enemies throw themselves into the fray, starting from mundane little droids and quickly ramping up to weird metallic snakes, space shuttle-looking things that shoot powerful beams at our hero, and creatively designed level bosses, all lovingly rendered in blocky, faux-vintage black and white.

A lot of thought has clearly been put into the designs of the level bosses, which on the whole are creatively implemented with interesting quirks.

Our door-opening, liquid metal-avoiding adventures are set to a backdrop of brilliant, simple electronica which initially has some echoes of the lovely, cold tones of the Atari 7800 in-built Asteroids soundtrack, but sharply builds in intensity once our hero reaches "Threat Level 2".

The controls are elegant, with a very useful autofire function toggled by the space bar (although eventually I ended up overusing autofire so much that at one point I found myself just bashing the space bar ineffectually, as if it was a fire button; a cautionary tale!) and left and right directional fire buttons which double as controls to change our hero's facing. Normally the necessity to fire a shot into thin air in order to do an about-face would make me throw out bad words but in this game, where nothing bad can come from uncontrolled gunfire, it's actually quite a nice touch and simplifies the controls in favour of smoother gameplay.

The difficulty level of this charming, challenging space-suited float-em-up platform adventure quickly jumps into high gear after a few threat levels (which by the way is a smart, original and immersive way for the game to add a little extra tension) and I found myself going from smooth sailing to "oh shit oh shit oh shit" panicking and dying in a short space of time. It's a gripping game which is way bigger than a cursory glance would suggest. I'm writing this on a Saturday evening and I've honestly made peace with the fact that I'll be playing Hero Core most of the night. Rock and roll.

Download the game here (from the Remar Games website).
4 out of 5

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