Release Date: 20 July 2018
Price: $9.99 / £8.99
Reviewed by Josh Brant
2015 saw the formation of developer Picomy and the release of their debut title Heroki - a kid-friendly game on iOS based on a proprietary engine. Thanks to the backing of Apple, and Sega who published the game, it became somewhat of a success.
Last year, Picomy found a partner for distribution with Nintendo and decided to release the game on the Nintendo Switch, resulting in the definitive way to play the game.
Heroki himself is a character that moves swiftly and requires precise input in order to carry out tasks successfully. Thankfully Picomy have ditched the touch-only controls from the iOS release in favour of the Switch's JoyCon or Pro Controller. It makes for much easier navigation, with the physical controls much more responsive and easier to get a grasp of.
Heroki is remarkably different from other platformers because the hero can fly in any direction, meaning progress has to be gated off by switches. Almost every level involves flying around, activating some switch to open a door, and along the way trying to find the the various hidden stone-like emerald 'glyphs' to achieve high scores and unlock upgrades. Finding these glyphs is pretty much just a matter of exploring every nook and cranny of the levels, but the fact certain upgrades and levels are locked away behind them can be a little annoying.
You won’t be able to progress to another world if you don’t have enough of these, and going back-and-forth to previously completed levels is the only option to obtain enough. Switching between different levels, you can see the difference graphically in some of the environments, but they never really feel all that different. The levels feel oddly restricted in what they can do, and considering you have gorgeous visuals and the ability to fly around everywhere, it’s a shame more exploration isn't possible.
That said there's plenty of 90's charm in the level design here. If you’re as old as I am (33), you will notice many callbacks to some classic titles, such as Sonic, Zelda, or even Donkey Kong Country. These sections are moulded into Heroki so well that you can’t help but smile.
You can tell the game is made with love and affection, and it shows in the art and presentation. The graphics are sublime and the attention to detail in the environments, characters, and enemies is immediately apparent. Colours are vibrant, and each character has plenty of personality.
The soundtrack, while irresistibly happy and infectious, doesn't change too much throughout the adventure. It's nothing to really write home about, but it does portray the positive nature of the world you inhabit nicely. The menus all work well and are easy to understand, but they do bear some of the lowly stamp of it's primitive iOS ancestry.
When first starting the adventure, you’re thrown into an unavoidable tutorial where you're shown the basics of gameplay. Normally this would come in handy, but by the time the fourth tutorial rolled around it became somewhat of a drag to get through. There are no options to skip these tutorials or events, so you’re always forced to sit through them which can be frustrating.
Story-wise, this tale isn’t the strongest or going to be one of your most memorable experiences. The problem is that it's introduced but never spoken of again, and the conclusion, even with a satisfying boss battle, was underwhelming. It's a shame as a little more depth in the storyline would have made Heroki much more enjoyable.
The open-ended nature of the title is cool, and tracking down collectables in well hidden areas is a lot of fun. Unfortunately though, while there are bosses to tackle, there isn’t too much in the way of enemy variety, even including mid-level bosses.
A Unique Adevnture
Once you finish a level you are quickly rushed into the next one, unless you choose to land in Heroki’s hometown. Here you can replenish health or buy items to help you out in your adventure. You can also take up some simple side quests to earn currency and talk to the townsfolk who all have similarly cute helicopter heads like you do. NPC’s will tell you the problems they need solving, but these usually consist of simple fetch quests which can become tedious.
Even with performing the side quests to obtain better loot, the game only took around seven hours to complete and wasn’t ever a hard title to play. Rarely does the game throw a new wrinkle your way, and generally it’s not too exciting. When Heroki does offer a challenge, such as having to dodge rocks falling from the sky, it doesn’t feel a necessary or worthy addition.
Overall, Heroki is a charming adventure that looks great and features some fun gameplay. You can tell a lot of love from Picomy went into making this title. The move to completely physical controls over the touchscreen origins make Switch the best way to experience this title. It may not be the most memorable, or feature too much in the way of satisfying gameplay, but it offers a pleasant experience for the most part.
Pros & Cons
+ Gorgeous environments and characters
+ Solid aerial gameplay
+ Charming music
- Can become repetitive
- Little enemy variety
- Shallow gameplay and puzzles