You have 88 minutes to beat 88 levels with 88 despicable heroes otherwise Dr H8 is going to destroy the earth with 88 nuclear missiles. No, this isn’t Count von Count’s number of the day squashed into a random sentence on Sesame Street. It is, in fact, the story arc for a very bizarre indie game that’s recently dropped onto the Nintendo Switch. So, is it any good then? Well, let’s find out.
88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition is a quirky platformer by British developer, Bitmap Bureau. You take control of 88 randomly selected heroes, each with their own unique abilities and handling skills. You have 88 seconds to make your way towards the exit without getting shot, squished, impaled, blown up, or lasered to death, in order to take down an extraterrestrial tyrant with an unhealthy number fetish.
Your heroes are made up from parodies and stereotypes from popular cultures each with their own trademark or special ability. Characters such as Big Lou, a dungaree-wearing Italian plumber who’s broke out of jail to clear his name with the ability to butt stomp his enemies, or Mr Kung Fu, a martial artist who can throw Hadoken as well as dragon punch and hurricane kick his way across pitfalls using command inputs. Even the Nokia snake gets a shot to shine again, plucked from the very early days of mobile gaming. There’s also references for the modern YouTube generation with the likes of Saxy Dave, a play on the epic sax guy loop that racked up 43 million views, and, of course, not forgetting the troll that is Rick Astley – rickrolling his way past suicide bombing kittens.
It goes without saying then that it’s the off the wall humour that carries 88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition forward, and does so rather well. There were moments that honestly cracked me up, especially when Nibbles the hamster made an appearance in his little ball with a godly voiced catchphrase – “I. AM. NIBBLES THE DESTROYER, DEVOURER OF WORLDS!” – before running face first into a saw blade. The whole comic value and gimmickry certainly hits home and adds flavour to what is overall, a very bland platformer.
The levels are generic in look and style with elements that have been dragged and dropped from the hordes of average platformers that came before it. The difficulty can be tricky in a good way, as it’s always fun to see which hapless hero will pop up next. Where it gets noticeably repetitive is when the comedy begins to wear thin and the levels begin to feel very samey. There’s the odd added feature that gets thrown into the mix to try and change the flow of level design but again, nothing really new or interesting. Furthermore, once your 88 heroes have failed, you can either restart from the beginning and take another stab at the uninspiring levels from square one, or painstakingly continue forward with your last hero. Just hope that it isn’t someone like the intentionally laggy El Delayo or the ever so fragile Glass Girl if you do decide to go down that route.
The way each character handles offers the player plenty of variety because of how completely different most of them are. Some will benefit you in helping to navigate through some levels easily whilst others are there just to flat out fail. Take Dieter Nate for example, a deranged criminal on death row that carries a bomb around with him by holding your attack button down. Let go of it and you will explode to pieces, ending his chance for redemption. It’s these little traits that each character possess that keep the gameplay as interesting the best it can. This urges you to approach each level quite differently, which is actually a very imaginative and interesting take on the genre.
The game itself is played through a screen wired up to security cameras under the watchful eye of Dr H8, who constantly mocks you on your heroic offering whilst slurping on a milkshake. Dr H8’s butlers are aimlessly wandering around in front of the screen with an eager desire to serve the evil mastermind tea. After you beat so many levels Dr H8 will take matters into his own hands and have a pop at you himself. This leads to a boss battles where you must beat him to move forward.
The boss encounters are pretty weak, as it tries to cater for a method that all characters can take advantage of in jumping on a switch to fire a missile at the intergalactic villain. Every battle pretty much plays out the same but with a slightly different attack pattern. Dr H8 taunting is entertaining enough until he starts to constantly repeat himself, but with quotes like, “Let’s get this over with, I’ve got a pie in the oven!” do feel gloriously British which draws the personality of this game out even more.
The visuals are fine in a small budget title kind of way, with graphical styles varying between each character. The idea of seeing Dr H8 watching your progress on screen is a neat little addition as is the mithering butlers that accompany him. The sound fits the game well but after a friend of mine pointed out that the backbeat sounds just like “A Little Respect” from Erasure, I honestly couldn’t shake the similarities out of my head. The winning formula, however, is the catchphrases each hero has – some of which are comedy gold.
One thing that did draw my attention was the price. It’s about 88 percent more expensive than it really should be. Well, I may be exaggerating a bit there to fit in line with the games running joke but, honestly, this game is £29.99 on the Nintendo eShop in the UK, which is far more expensive than it has any right to be. This is down to a physical copy release of the game, which is a bit of a joke, really, because you are probably going to get a good afternoon of fun out of this title before leaving it on the shelf and moving on.
88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition does seem to be a perfect game for the YouTuber. I could imagine davystinkyeye1023 or whatever they call themselves entertaining 10-year-olds glued to their phone for hours on end. Which surprises me that there’s no Level Editor available given the basic toolset that was used to create them – resulting in a missed opportunity, really. There are extra unlockable modes available though, like choosing your eight best heroes to go through the entire 88 levels again, as well as a solo offering. There’s also a mega hard eight level conquest to venture on for the hardcore called H8 Mode.
88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition is a hilariously fun, yet tough little title that will keep you entertained for a few hours at least. It has some great ideas at play here with a charming personality in its presentation. It’s also nice to see a few cameos appear from other rising star published games such as Rusty from SteamWorld Dig and the dodgy looking fella from Conga Master Party! to name a few. However, once the comedy and novelty start to wane so does it’s mediocre gameplay. Which may leave you pretty underwhelmed within a very short time, and £29.99 poorer.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Rising Star Games