Playing Tap Heroes, I ended up looking like some kind of “gamer” character in a sitcom: face contorted somewhere between bliss and frustration, body convulsing as fingers frantically mash the controller. The thing about this character is that, although it looks like they’re having a lot of fun, it never seems like the actual game is very good, or even existent.
Tap Heroes might sound like a generic title, but it’s actually quite apt. The game is technically an action RPG where you build a party, fight monsters, and earn gold to upgrade your party’s stats. But all of that boils down to tapping. Endless tapping. Tapping on monsters causes your party to attack. Tapping on your party heals them. Tapping on dropped gold pieces collects them. When you kill a monster, a fresh monster appears in its place, ready to be tapped.
The game is presented as a sort of puppet show, where all the characters are pixelated paper cutouts, and each “level” is composed of set pieces, like rocks or clouds hanging from ropes, which will swap in and out as you progress to the next level. It’s a cool motif, one that reminds me of the Paper Mario games. With the exception of boss battles, every level pits you against ten monsters which appear one at a time. When you’ve defeated those ten, you can keep grinding against limitless monsters, or tap “next” to swap out the set and move to the next level.
Because of its structure, Tap Heroes is very difficult to put down. Only the options menu and the in-app purchases menu will actually pause the game. The upgrades menu appears just below the action, ready to be tapped like anything else. Without any break in the action, I often felt too “busy” with tapping to stop. As you may have guessed from the limited interaction, though, I rarely wanted to go back once I had stopped.
There really is nothing to Tap Heroes. Sure there’s some sense of progression at first – as you beat bosses (which simply require more tapping), you’ll earn Blue Stars, which can be used to buy new party members. The Mage will support your Warrior with automatic heals, and the Rogue shoots arrows that stun and poison enemies. But this never changes the action. New party members have practically the same effect as a 100-gold upgrade.
Blue Stars can also be bought with real money, but their only use other than party members is to buy temporary stat boosts, like double damage or double gold. Those might be interesting, if the game hinted at any fantastic upgrades further down the line, but the content seems pretty sparse.
The first session with Tap Heroes is intriguing. Its simplicity leaves you plenty of room to consider the psychological triggers that lurk behind every free-to-play game. If you’re willing to be Pavlov’s dog for a little while, it might be worth a try. But unlike the free-to-play games that gain a real audience, there just isn’t enough reason to come back over and over.
Tap Heroes will exhaust your thumbs and bore the rest of you.