Pixel art? Platforming? Retro aesthetics? It must be an indie game! Yes, from Bitmap Bureau, makers of games I haven’t played like Ninja Showdown, we’ve got 88 Heroes. Specifically, we’ve got 88 Heroes – 98 Heroes Edition for the Switch, an update to the game that adds some more heroes and levels to the mix along with appearing on everyone’s favorite hybrid console. The gimmick here is pretty much spelled out in the title, but gimmicks are just fine if they’re tended to with love and that’s what we see in the expanded 88 Heroes – 98 Heroes Edition.
Dr. H8 is going to destroy the planet! Somebody needs to stop him! They’ll have to get through 88 levels within 88 minutes, though, and they can only spend 88 seconds on each level. That’s a job for more than one hero – it’s a job for 88 Heroes. You’re given a random Hero from the cast at the start of each level; if that one dies or you finish the level, you’re given another. Coins strewn throughout the level can revive fallen Heroes if your favorites bite the dust. Your goal is to make it through each level to a door at the far end, sometimes grabbing a key to get the door open in advance.
Of course, not all Heroes are created equal. Some of the Heroes are great! They’re easy to use, powerful or mobile in ways that others can’t really compare to – Commandude’s got a gun that can fire in eight directions, Bat-Bot can fly around and stop time and Simon Borg’s got a bionic arm that’s great for taking out enemies and swinging around. Some are, uh, less great. Retro Reptile is just a snake that controls like the one in the classic game, meaning you can’t stop moving or touch anything without dying; Wang Wei is a panda on a unicycle that constantly goes in the direction opposite of what you’re pressing; Glass Girl can double jump but can’t attack and shatters after falling too far.
Some are just plain weird. Miss Fortune flips a coin and either instantly beats the level or dies; Ian_Error glitchily falls through floors and generally doesn’t work as expected. There are even a few Heroes exclusive to this version, like Rusty from Steamworld Dig.
In other words, your experience on any given level is going to rely heavily on which characters you end up with. Most levels have multiple paths to that take into account the varying skills of whatever hero you might end up with. Generally speaking, flight or otherwise messing with gravity are killer skills that will see you through most levels; even Retro Reptile’s goofy movement has some value in a game where many of your deaths will come from falling off the stage or landing on spikes. Weapons can be helpful as well. Sometimes, though, you’re just given a lemon of a Hero and you’ll have to do your best with them. A personal nemesis was El Delayo, a gun-toting Mariachi who adds about a second of input lag to anything you do, making it practically impossible to platform effectively; I found he showed up at the worst possible times and rarely lasted long.
There are a few different modes with which to take on the game. By default, you go through 88 levels with 88 Heroes in 88 minutes, as mentioned, but the Magnificent 8 mode allows you to choose your own team in exchange for having a much smaller pool of “lives,” and Solo mode allows you to play as long as you can with only one Hero. Have fun doing that one with El Delayo. That guy’s the worst. Anyway, there’s plenty of content here, especially considering the drastically different playstyles offered by the many Heroes.
88 Heroes is presented in a fairly standard Indie Pixel Art ™ style, though there’s something to be said for the “framing” device where you’re watching the game through Dr. H8’s security screen. It’s cute, though the animations can sometimes be distracting. Sound is acceptable; some heroes are designed around being particularly annoying from an aural standpoint, naturally, so you’ll probably come to hate Rick Roll. Yes, seriously, it’s 2007 again.
88 Heroes – 98 Heroes Edition is a goofy little title with a cute concept that does exactly what it sets out to do: offer a whole bunch of variety to spice up what would otherwise be a bog-standard Indie Pixel Art Platformer ™. This sort of game is a great fit for the Switch and its many playstyle options, so give it a shot. Just hope you don’t get El Delayo as your first Hero. Seriously, who hired that guy?