When I think about the origins of the modern indie game, I can’t help but think that it all began with browser-based Flash games. We’ve come a long way since those days, or have we? Vertical Drop Heroes HD just happens to be a completely remade version of a Flash game, a Roguelike where death is a constant inevitability and repetition is rewarded with progress. Think Spelunky, and you get the idea.
Here, you select from a few randomly generated heroes, descending through randomly generated levels, fighting randomly generated foes, before fighting a huge, tough boss at the bottom. Death signals the end of your chosen hero, and will mostly reset your progress, however there are teleport crystals in each level that cost gold to unlock, allowing you to skip levels for a further cost.
Gold is also used mid-game to purchase temporary powerups, as well as more permanent abilities from Merchants that can be applied to all future characters. Back in the starting hub, you’ll also be able to purchase upgrades to attack and health points, as well as increases to the amount of XP earnt from picking up Pacifist orbs. These orbs appear at the beginning of each level, and can be collected for more XP, but they disappear the moment you attack an enemy. It’s a mechanic that adds a little side-challenge to see how far you can descend without fighting, to pick up as many bonuses as possible. If you have enough keys, you’ll even be able to finish a level by unlocking the exit, instead of fighting the boss.
You’ll also take on quests mid-level from various NPCs, requesting you kill certain enemies or collect additional items, giving you more cash with which to build up your characters. This is a game based purely on repetition, as you’ll be running through areas, trying to collect as much loot as possible until you die, and then using those amassed riches to purchase permanent upgrades to make your future heroes more powerful.
It’s a continuing cycle, and admittedly very repetitive, but what Vertical Drop Heroes has on its side is the brevity of its levels. You can play for 5-10 minutes, die, then immediately come back for more. Eventually, the lack of depth of the 2D platforming and combat will prove tiresome, but this is a game definitely enjoyed in short bursts as a real palate cleanser.
Presentation-wise, it’s very, very reminiscent of Castle Crashers. I mean it really looks and sounds like Castle Crashers, which is fine, I suppose, but it’s really inescapable and almost unfairly dates the game somewhat.
VERDICT: Vertical Drop Heroes is a cheap and certainly cheerful 2D platformer, and pretty enjoyable, although it’s unlikely to hold your attention for too long. It’s a game that’s as much about luck and perseverance than actual skill, but Roguelike fans who want something a little lighter might well enjoy this.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.
Review code provided by publisher.