In 1988, on August 8, at 8:08, the evil Dr. H8 announced his plan to destroy the earth in 88 hours with 88 nukes if he is not paid 88 octillion dollars. Earth called upon its greatest heroes, but unfortunately they were busy. 88 Heroes is a new side scrolling platformer from developer Bitmap Bureau. Players take control of 88 unique “heroes,” the ones who showed up anyway, and they have 88 seconds to complete each of the 88 levels and defeat the evil Dr. H8.
If 88 Heroes sounds ridiculous, that’s because it’s intended to. A hilarious, pop-culture reference-filled game of pure awesomeness, 88 Heroes uses the popular “roguelike” gameplay, where each of the 88 different characters has but one life and is killed in one hit, then it’s back to the start. Avoid various enemies and traps and utilize each of your heroes’ unique abilities to navigate the maze-like levels. With only 88 seconds per, players must be both speedy and careful in finding the path to the elevator in each 2D multi-directional scrolling level.
At the start of each level, players will take control of a random character, always designed as a knock off of a well known counterpart or some other nerdy tongue in cheek reference. Characters with names like Agent 0088, Gonan, Rick Roll, and my personal favorites, Nibbles the Destroyer and Laser Kittie. Nibbles is a hamster in a ball who spouts megalomaniacal rhetoric in a baritone voice as he rolls along, and Laser Kittie is a kitten that shoots lasers out of its mouth, of course. Each of the characters are so well thought out and some are downright hysterical. But it’s not just all humor, each hero also has a unique play style and powers, or in some cases, lack thereof.
88 Heroes is all played via the screen Dr. H8 is watching from, and his commentary is always there. Sometimes his robot minions will walk directly in your view, obviously intended to get in the player’s way and provide some humor as Dr. H8 shoots them in the face. That obstruction can be one of the issues with 88 Heroes: the luck factor. Sometimes this visual interference will cost you a hero. It’s just timing. Sometimes you will get the worst possible hero for the level, and then another, it’s all random. The levels, while not random, will also become repetitive as you repeat them, which is the curse of “roguelike” hard resets. Finally, the fun factor of the characters will also be fleeting after hours of play as one can only chuckle for so long at a joke, but the good news is that DLC is planned with more kooky playable characters on the way.
The brilliance of 88 Heroes is in learning the characters, mastering their crazy abilities, and learning to adapt to random obstacles, even if not using the optimal hero for the job. This challenges a certain part of a gamer’s brain, I felt that way at least. As I repeated the levels and got more proficient with more characters, I was rewarded for my knowledge, but I still had to always adapt, as it was never the same situation in-game because of the randomness of the characters. One may be fast and slide around, one may have the ability to destroy walls and create a new path, and another might be able to fly past everything, or hell, even control time itself as he flies around, looking at you Bat Bot.
88 Heroes provided a great time for myself and my daughter, her watching me play and laughing at the jokes or delighting in the cute factor of some heroes. I watched her die on an obstacle, and die again on the same one so many times, but we would just laugh. Truly comical games are so rare. Couple this with really imaginative gameplay as each hero bends the rules in some unique way, be that good or bad, and the result is one of the most fun “roguelike” platformers I have played. 88 Heroes is difficult, and can get repetitive, but I feel players with a good sense of humor, who enjoy retro platformers and a challenge, will enjoy 88 Heroes immensely. Pick it up and stop the evil Dr. H8 before before he destroys us all!
88 Heroes is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac. This review is based on a digital copy for PS4 provided for that purpose.