by Joe Matar0
Hero of Many Review
I’m officially banning indie games where the majority of the foreground objects are in silhouette and things are only livened up by the background color changing from level to level. Reason being, I’m starting to develop preconceived notions and my assumption was that, like the two-color games before it, Hero of Many would be yet another puzzle-platformer. In actuality, it’s a story-driven action title—one with some pretty significant problems, but still a unique experience that definitely warrants a look.
Hero of Many is decidedly minimalist. It’s story-driven in that it’s extremely linear and has occasional cut scenes, but there’s no in-game text. You’re simply dropped into the role of this circular-ish, blobby organism that floats around an underwater environment. You quickly come to realize that you are able to amass an army of other organisms that look like, well, sperms. Really, just look at the screenshots. I’ll try to think of different things to call them for the rest of the review though.
The protagonist organism casts a bright white light and all of his followers are (ahem) white too. However, you’ll soon encounter black… um… squiggly things which will attempt to eat you and your friends, so it becomes a matter of navigating environments to find more friend-squigglies to outnumber and devour the dark ones so that you can make your way safely to the end of each level.
Playing the game is ludicrously simple. You touch and drag around to move your guy through the environments and maneuver him into rocks to push them out of the way. Approach a squiggle-boy to have him join up with you. You’ll also float over shiny dots that make you glow brighter, which is the visual representation of how healthy you are. Eventually you’ll also find plants with shiny tips that your friends can chow on to keep them healthy and, even later, eggs that the squigglers can chomp open, releasing more baby snakes to join your army.
Overall, the minimalism works. It’s cool to float around figuring everything out, but I can’t help but wonder if just a tiny bit more instruction would’ve helped. The only mechanic you’re informed how to use (by way of an unclear visual) is that you can swipe over your character to make your boys attack in any direction. However what’s not explained is that it’s also possible, and generally more effective, to simply go near an enemy shpadoinkle and let your fellas attack of their own volition. It’s also easy to get lost in the two-color environments. Spots around the level light up to show where you’ve already been, but that isn’t always enough, especially if you quit in the middle of a level and return to it later. It’s small things like these that left me uncertain as to what to do at the game’s outset so that I kept dying (which just knocks you back to the last checkpoint). But, once you understand the basics, the game doesn’t throw many curve balls.
In fact, this is one of its main problems. Hero of Many is pretty long and for many levels is basically a casual game in which you float about, clearing out each area of enemy sponglers, hitting the (in keeping with the theme) semi-phallic checkpoints, and then moving onto the exit. It eventually introduces some other ideas, like teaming up with other circular guys with different powers from you and more action-y bits in which you have to dodge glop that transforms your friendly shpunks into enemies, but this all could’ve been introduced much earlier. The pacing just seems off. You reach what feels like a narrative midpoint where you get swallowed by a fish and all seems lost, but, if that’s a midpoint, the latter half is awfully huge.
Hero of Many’s is pretty nicely presented. Complementing its story is some surprisingly epic music that kicks in at dramatic points and the sound effects are fantastic with squishy sounds as you bust through strands of some kind of webbing and booming noises from falling rocks. The spliggles sound good too, with their strange little creature cries and munching effects. The graphics—especially the interesting background underwater fauna—are quite detailed, but, as mentioned, I’m a bit sick of the whole silhouette shtick and can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be more beautiful in full color.
But maybe this wouldn’t work out as Hero of Many’s other unfortunate problem is severe slowdown. I imagine this varies based on device but, for my Galaxy Nexus, as more elements got introduced and environments became more spacious, things really started to chug, often at moments where precision movement was of the essence, rendering some later levels borderline unplayable.
Hero of Many is unexpectedly interesting as its presentation belies a linear narrative experience. You’ll be amazed to feel some attachment to your little sploogers and a desire to help them escape the dark spizms to gain their freedom. The pacing is on the slow side and a distressing amount of slowdown keeps the game from true greatness. Still, it’s a unique experience that, wordlessly, makes you feel like a hero of many…
Summary: Slowdown and slow pacing mar an otherwise intriguing minimalist narrative in this action-puzzle thingamabob.