What follows is the newest Android recipe from OrangePixel: One part dungeon crawler, one part shoot-‘em-up, a generous helping of pixel art, and a dash of Gauntlet to taste. Mix on and off for about 8 years (according to the developer blog), and you end up with Heroes of Loot.
As many of us know from personal experience, promising recipes can end up as disasters, especially when trying to incorporate a lot of different ingredients (my own debacle came in the form of cold sesame noodles that somehow congealed into one enormous noodle, the color of a sickly child’s cheeks right before he barfs). The point is, a lot of things could have gone wrong with Heroes of Loot. The good news is that instead, a lot of things went really right.
You begin by choosing between four character classes—Elf, Wizard, Warrior or Valkyrie. Each has varying skill in strength, magic, and generating experience points with each kill. Once a character is chosen, you’re in for a surprise. Instead of turn-based combat, you’re fighting in real time. Weapons upgrade automatically when the character levels up, so your little energy ball farts will gradually start to resemble Goku’s kamehamehas. Your ammo is unlimited, but your magic isn’t. You can obtain the ability to spray a ring of fire or bring down jolts of lightning by finding runes, but depending on your character class this ability can be short-lived. Because there’s only one attack button, these spells are used automatically with your regular attack, so the only way to save on magic is to plan your assaults carefully.
Something that distinguishes Heroes is that the dungeons get progressively harder every time you start a new game. Every fifth dungeon you escape will increase the overall difficulty level of the game, and will also introduce new monsters into the mix. This means that the first time you play, the earlier levels will probably be a walk through the park, each enemy offering no more resistance than a blade of grass you might pluck from said park. This serves as a tutorial mode, and lowers the barrier of entry to the genre. However, once you’ve put some time into the game, earlier levels will have monsters that are more diverse and more aggressive, making your walk through the park more like capture the flag. This is a clever idea to keep you from getting bored on your way to higher-level dungeons, but I wish that dungeon difficulty were specific to each character. Making it to level 23 using the Warrior shouldn’t also increase dungeon difficulty for the Wizard. Just because you’ve mastered brute strength doesn’t mean you’re a wizard, ‘arry!
The controls are responsive and easy to use. You tap or hold the right side of the screen to attack, and use the left side of the screen like a joystick to move around. Your attack will automatically target whichever enemy is closest to you, so you can back away from a monster while still hurling axes at it. However, this cowardice comes at a cost—the gold that your enemies drop disappears quickly, so if you run away before collecting it you’ll never be able to afford the necessary shields and potions to survive.
There are plenty of items and quests and secret rooms to keep you busy. Well, the secret rooms aren’t all that exciting, in that once you’ve discovered one you’ve basically discovered them all, but at least they’re chock-full of goodies! The invisibility cloak is especially great, because you can maim and kill by the hundreds. Harry Potter’s got nothing on you.
The pixel art is awesome. There isn’t much difference in the functionality of the weapons, but they vary nicely in terms of aesthetics. The enemies are drawn really well, and each has a unique attack (for example, some create shock waves and others shoot energy orbs through walls. Oh that’s right. Time to seek since there’s nowhere to hide, my friend). One brilliant detail is how little red pixels will fly every time you kill an enemy. Paint the dungeons with the blood of thine enemies!
Ultimately, the mark of a good game is how much you want to play it. This is the kind of game you won’t want to put down. Death is permanent, which can be disheartening, but Heroes just makes you want to dust yourself off and get right back up again. With a recipe this good, you’ll definitely go back for another taste.