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Review: 88 Heroes (Nintendo Switch)

What would happen if a supervillain who is obsessed with the number 88 takes over the world and threatens to destroy it when his demands aren’t met? Well, you send the best of the best to stop him, of course! But what if the best of the best aren’t available? What if you have to put your faith in a group of so-called heroes that are the worst at what they do?

Enter the 88 Heroes!

The year is 1988. On the 8th of August at 8 minutes past 8, Dr. H8 threatens to launch 88 thermo-nuclear warheads towards the Earth if he isn’t paid 88 octillion dollars within the next 88 minutes. Humanity calls for the aid of the best heroes in existence, but the best are apparently too busy for a world-threatening event. That’s why the 88 Heroes are deployed as humanities last hope. However, the 88 consist out of the strangest, most pointless superheroes to ever grace the face of the earth. It’s up to you to guide these 88 fools through 88 levels and put a stop to Dr. H8’s devious plans.

A short intro tells you the premise of the game's story
A short intro tells you the premise of the game’s story

Unpredictable gameplay

The gameplay of 88 Heroes is fairly simple, although unpredictable during your first playthrough. In the ’88 Mode’, the game’s story mode, you have to get through 88 levels spread across 4 areas to defeat Dr. H8 once and for all. While you have a wide selection of heroes, you don’t get to choose which one you’ll play with. The game assigns you a random hero and continues to do so whenever your hero dies. Here’s what makes the game unpredictable: every hero plays differently. One hero attacks with his sword, but always does this flashy move before he strikes, so you have to time your attack correctly with him. Another hero can’t attack at all but can fly over hazards with his jetpack. Some heroes can’t even do anything at all, except move like everyone else. Every one of the 88 Heroes is uniquely designed and plays different enough to differentiate them from the others solely by their abilities (or lack thereof). It also helps that the game is created with a sense of humor, which results in some pretty original designs for several heroes. It’s clear that the random hero mechanic is the main selling point of the game and, in my opinion, it works great.

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One of the “heroes” is a nerd who becomes a Hulk-like creature that can smash obstacles

But the challenge of the game does not lie solely with the all the different heroes. It also offers some simple, yet tight gameplay with its level design. None of the levels are filled with countless hazards and traps, they are all placed tactically and clearly with some careful planning behind them. One single bullet or touch of a spike is enough to kill your current hero and return you back to the beginning of the level. The one-shot kills are immediately followed by your next hero spawn, which keeps the flow at a steady pace. You can compare it with Super Meat Boy: start a level, die and immediately start over without a single loading screen or unnecessary textboxes. By the way, if you’re wondering if you can replay a certain hero that you like but has died in one of the levels then no worries. Scattered throughout the levels are coins that you can pick up. Collect 88 of them and you can resurrect a hero of your choice. Don’t expect to resurrect your whole team by the end of the game though. Collecting enough coins for one hero might take a couple of levels.

Look at the time

While the game encourages you to run through levels with certain heroes, most of them require you to carefully make your next move while still keeping an eye on the timer. Speaking of the timer, there are two you have to pay attention to. First, there’s the level timer, which is 88 seconds and simply lets you redo the level if it reaches zero. The second one is the game timer, which starts at 88 minutes and occasionally pops up on Dr. H8’s desk and tells you how many minutes you have left to finish the game. If it runs out, it’s game over. The game timer can be ignored since you’ll probably never let it reach zero before defeating Dr. H8. 88 minutes is more than enough time to complete the game, even if it’s your first time playing. The level timer, however, is little trickier. Some levels can be finished with 60 seconds left, but others can become a race where you reach the end with only one second remaining. It also makes you pay attention at all times since it’s not easy to predict how long a level might take you to complete it.

A few shortcomings

While 88 heroes, in general, is a pretty fun experience, it isn’t without flaws. Next to the story mode, there are also ‘The Magnificent 8’ and ‘Solo’ modes. The Magnificent 8 lets you complete the 88 levels with only 8 heroes, instead of 88. The solo mode is the same but in this, you can only use one hero. The solo mode is great for hardcore players that want to test their skills and memorize every hero’s specific flaws and advantages. The Magnificent 8, however, feels like a quick add-on that the developer put in just to have another pun with the number 8. Sure, you can also use it to improve your skills but with the solo mode, it’s basically redundant. What baffles me the most, though, is the lack of a multiplayer component. Throughout the game, your progress is being displayed on Dr. H8’s giant monitor. Sometimes he attacks you with laser beams that you can avoid by staying outside his aiming reticle. Now imagine a second player controlling Dr. H8 and trying to stop you. It would be fun to play against each other, especially since you can follow everything on the same screen, but it looks like the developers didn’t have the time or budget to create a mode like this. The absence of a multiplayer mode is nothing new in 88 Heroes, but with the Nintendo Switch version, I can’t think help but think that the dev team has missed a great opportunity to improve their game. The game already has a ‘second player’, Dr. H8,  that follows the primary player’s progression and the Switch always has two controllers due to the JoyCons. It’s practically begging to be played by two people.

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Mechanics like Dr. H8’s laser attack would be perfect for a multiplayer mode

So what is different with the Nintendo Switch version? Well, not much I’m afraid. The Switch version is called 98 Heroes Edition and is simply packed with the DLC that unlocks 10 more heroes. The rest of the game is exactly the same as every other version, which is disappointing. It’s not that big of a deal if you’ve never played it before, but if you already own it on another platform, there’s not exactly a reason the buy it again for the Switch.

Conclusion

The core gameplay of 88 Heroes is solid. All the unique heroes combined with a sense of humor is the main selling point of the game and it delivers in those parts. The lack of a multiplayer mode and additional content for the Switch version (with the exception of the 10 extra heroes) makes it hard to convince veterans to buy this game again. In short, if you haven’t played this yet and own a Nintendo Switch, you might want to check this out.

7/10