Platform: iOS (also available on PC)**
Developer: Ravenous Games
Release Date: 8/16/2012
Random Heroes is a side scrolling platformer/shoot-em-up that has found its way to the top of the Adventure category of the iOS App Store after originally appearing as a Flash game back in December of last year. Developer Ravenous Games first made its mark in the indie game world with the popular Super Meat Boy-inspired action game League of Evil (which also made its way to the App Store). The game was a big hit—the movement was lightning fast and it handled brilliantly, even when using the virtual buttons programmed into the iOS version. With Random Heroes, Ravenous Games has mixed League of Evil’s time trial feel with slower, more explorative platforming elements, attempting to recreate the style of the classic Mega Man series of old.
I’ll start out with what the game gets right, which is Random Heroes’ excellent art style. The sprites are drawn in a clean pixel art style and animated in crisp motions, all of which look fantastic on the iOS platform. The development team has clearly stepped it up in this department as everything from the character models to the dark environments you explore are an absolute joy to look at. Furthermore, the game gets additional points for its attention to detail: beautiful backdrops move in multiple layers of parallax, gunfire flashes in the dark and bullet shells even hit the floor around you as lay waste to your enemies. These enemies aren’t just gun fodder though— even the most basic of enemies take up to eight slow shots from your gun to take down. That brings up the game’s major problem: it’s often unclear as to how it wants you to play.
The short levels and abundance of platforms to jump across make you want to speed through quickly, perhaps in the vein of League of Evil. However, the character’s limited mobility and the enemies’ extended health bars force you to plod through the straightforward levels at a relatively slow pace. But if you really wanted to, there’s nothing stopping you from spending hours methodically killing each monster that stands in your way (or quickly upgrading your weapons through in-App purchases). The problem with this style of play is that for the most part these monsters are just no fun to kill. Not only do enemies take a lot of shots to kill, but your starting gun (which I had to use for a large chunk of the game) fires at a slow and uncontrollable rate. Ultimately, they end up taking so long to take down that I find it easier to just avoid enemies altogether whenever possible.
The game begins with a short introduction to the story, which declares that now that monsters have begun pouring in through a portal to another dimension, “a hero is needed now more than ever”. The problem is that playing Random Heroes doesn’t make me feel like much of a hero at all, especially since my proven formula for getting through the levels was to rarely fire my gun and instead go from medkit to medkit, hoping to make it to the other side in one piece.
Leaving room for different play styles in a game is usually a great idea. In fact, I can imagine a mix of sidescrolling shooter action and frantic League of Evil jumping being a pretty unique play experience. However, in Ravenous Games’ attempts to blend different side-scrolling mechanics, they’ve failed to give Random Heroes the focus necessary to make it a compelling action game.