YOU BRING ME DOWN, BABY
If there’s a console that sports a healthy selection of roguelikes, it’s our lovely PS Vita. There are a lot of games available attempting to do something either classic or fresh within the formula and Nerdook’s Vertical Drop Heroes stays more in line with the former. It is a somewhat charismatic but short-lived experience which could have done something more to sustain its replayability-heavy goals.
The game eases you into everything you can do in it
The tongue-in-cheek story merely acts a subtle motive to help you along the randomly generated dungeons. Essentially, there is an ancient prophecy taking place in the dungeons’ location and everyone and their mother seems to think it’s about them. Thus, most everyone who ventured down said dungeons has suffered an unnecessary death, however, the game claims this is also “the story about the one who did make it”. Should the player be good enough, he/ she might just fit the bill.
The prophecy we’re all after
I liked Vertical Drop Heroes’ art style a lot. Both the playable characters and enemies sport a very pleasant cartoonish animated look and the maps themselves are full of colour. Scenery and backgrounds change from vegetation-filled fields to dry and dusty desert-themed dungeons which see the enemies themselves change accordingly. Environmental hazards or interactive objects are very clear to see and different character types and weapons are easily told apart, while animations also look smooth.
Overall, this is a pretty game indeed.
The game looks very good on the Vita
As far as gameplay goes, Vertical Drop Heroes is a mixed bag. Movement and what platforming elements there are feel pretty good, seeing as the randomly generated dungeons ensure you never stick to the same layout and need to change strategies accordingly, while the frequent option to go back to the start of the level in order to reach new places proved fun and extended longevity.
Characters are also randomly generated and so is their arsenal – both weapons and abilities. You can get dual swords, big swords, a sword and shield, spears, etc. and make use of powers like super high jumps, freezing enemies, setting the plague upon them, etc. This mixes things up from session to session and evokes the classic “one more try” feeling, making playing the game in short bursts pretty fun.
Combat can quickly devolve into button-mashing
However, I did find combat disappointing. There is no dodge or block command, so encounters can quickly turn into button-mashing affairs, which was a particularly noticeable problem every time I reached a given dungeon’s final boss.
I would have really liked a deeper and more fluid combat which made the already fun process of killing enemies from strategic positions all the more satisfying.
There can be a lot of action going on at times
As far as sound goes, there’s nothing here one wouldn’t expect and things do stay very pleasant throughout. The light-hearted tunes and sound effects all add to the cartoon-ish visuals and playing the game with headphones on made for a pretty relaxing and smooth experience. I doubt anyone will stick with the game’s soundtrack for days but it does a nice job of pushing the action forward.
Environments offer a bit of welcome variety
Vertical Drop Heroes HD threw itself into a pretty busy genre on my favourite handheld but still manages to come out on a positive note. The randomly generated dungeons and characters all do a nice job of providing different experiences in each session, whilst the balance between difficulty and survival assists proved remarkably fair. Light RPG elements also give players the opportunity to better themselves each time they go down a new session, which provides some added motivation to keep replaying.
It’s a shame that there isn’t a smoother combat system in place here but for the asking price, Vertical Drop Heroes HD still manages to provide a good time for roguelike fans on PS Vita.
Note: this review was based on a copy provided by the developers