I’ve made it clear before that I don’t care much for free-to-play games, and on an unrelated note I’m a sucker for retro graphics. Needless to say, Buffstudio’s Timing Hero left me a bit torn at first. To recap: I think retro-style graphics are a fantastic way for developers to save money and time, as well as replicate charming art styles of old. Free games, on the other hand, too quickly devolve into cash grabs if development is not specifically curtailed from such practices. Also, how do I review a free game? Can I honestly complain about something that took nothing away from me but time?
Now that you’re caught up… Timing Hero launches full-bore into a world of charming music, spinach-green GameBoy flair, and cheesy exposition slideshows. It feels like a genuine representation of Nintendo’s seminal handheld console’s monochrome blur and chunky tile refreshing. It’s akin to Tower of Heaven, with a similar oversight regarding the GameBoy’s inability to achieve some of the sprite-scaling tricks employed by modern computers (good thing nobody in the known universe besides me cares even slightly about that). The music is chipper and energetic, and overall it’s a heavily charming if not stunningly accurate re-creation.
Most importantly, of course, the game is fun and simple. You fight monsters buy either dodging, attacking, or using a special ability relative to one of your many unlockable classes. Get money, get upgrades, repeat. This is formulaic by now for sure, but Timing Heroes pulls it off with a finesse seldom rivaled by games like this. The attack patterns of enemies are swift and punishing, come with little warning, require sharp memorization, and generally make for exciting, involving battles. Quick reflexes is the skill most needed to achieve victory, especially when you have to juggle between using your abilities between attacks, counter-attacking, or even pausing without getting thrashed while your index finger is garishly poised over the battle screen. Enemies early on are brutal in how much damage they deal out, and healing is barely even an option. It’s all responsive, engaging, and above all fun.
The biggest issue with “free” android games is the awful marketing philosophy behind them. “Oh, you’re interested in playing our “FREE” game? Well how about we cloister two thirds of the game inside an arbitrary paywall?” This creates a scenario where the developer has incentive not to make the game fun, but rather to actively dampen your experience so you may acquiesce into paying for a game you incorrectly thought was devoid of charge. Yes, this game has gems you pay for with real cash, but rather than blockading features, all of them are given to you right off the bat, with actual incentive to use the currency in order to make your character stronger (there’s even this cute feature where you can watch a 30 second commercial to get an attack buff). At least, that’s the theory. The game is far too easy and generous with gems to make buying anything a worthwhile practice, and in fact the satisfyingly gradual triumph over the punishing difficulty is quickly made too easy. This is because, for some bizarre reason, gems are also pickups for beating the bosses.
I admire the self-restraint when it came to profiteering off the game’s features, but it feels like they went a bit too opposite of most free Android titles, treating the player so nicely that they ultimately have no desire to spend. A hearty effort, but ultimately the title is just a small distraction.
Is it Hardcore?
Gameboy-styled action RPG that almost makes you want to pay for it.