I enjoy iPhone games the most when they don’t try to follow conventional console tropes. While some may work, those same games generally could ultimately play better with a controller. SunGrand has their own idea of controlling up to four heroes on a side-scrolling 2D plane, and it’s satisfyingly more complex than most app-store sidescrollers. Every Hero has a fun concept, but it may cause players to curse often—not from the challenge but from the frustration.
Every Hero tells the tale of a princess, along with four other generic quadruplets of heroes. Conflict arises in the Sugarloaf Kingdom, and the princess, along with the four heroes, rise to the occasion. To help them out on their quest, they have access to 10 unique hats, which seem to borrow heavily from Final Fantasy Tactics. The story is largely absent, and it’s limited to characters in the background with single dialogue bubbles. Some of what they say is useful, and the rest is usually mixed attempts at humor. While a game like this doesn’t really need a story, I thought it could have benefited from a more story-book presentation, considering the game’s pop-up book art style.
The game has a whimsical sense of style thanks to its aesthetics and sound. Speaking earlier of Final Fantasy Tactics, all of the heroes and jobs look like they were inspired from the aforementioned game, albeit with a 2D cutout. The environment itself is made up of 2D cutouts, and it looks like a blend of Paper Mario and something a kid would draw on his scratch paper—perfect for a whimsical setting like the Sugarloaf Kingdom. All of this is accompanied by beautiful piano pieces that enliven the sugary, fantasy setting. The paths themselves, however, have low textures and don’t quite mesh with the rest of the 2D cutouts, and the kingdom designs borrow from the typical “themed levels.” Apart from the sky raining down bits of sugary sweets, I never associated the Sugarloaf Kingdom with it’s name, but the game looks good despite a few rough patches.
Every Hero is a sidescroller; however, players do not have control of the heroes and princess’s actions—most of the time, anyway. The characters will continue on the path on their own will, and they always target the next enemy. This doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of interaction; players will constantly be switching hats to adapt to the situation. It’s kind of like the paradigm system from Final Fantasy XIII or gambit system in XII, albeit simpler. Players can drag the appropriate hat icon to their character of choice, or they can double tap an icon so that all of the players simultaneously wear the same hat. Tapping a character will cause them to halt, which players will need to remember as characters tend to trot past health items or straight into enemy fire. Players can even shake the device to cause an earthquake, which upends certain enemies whose only weakness is their underbelly.
Sometimes I found myself wrestling against the game for control. The game is a little too picky when it comes to dragging hats onto players, which could often result in damage and death. It doesn’t help that characters charge head-strong into enemies, and will even walk into enemy fire unless you make absolutely sure to equip the right hats and halt the characters at the right time. This is especially frustrating in the game’s water levels, where only the scuba divers can swim; however, they can only swim toward the surface where the spikes and enemies usually are. It would be nice if we had an option to swipe left or right all the time, which is only an option during boss battles. Finally, the camera becomes wonky as the four characters grow separated.
Each hat has multiple uses. Each class can handle its own set of monsters; however, some classes can overlap or be used in other situations—usually regarding terrain. For instance, while the knight can handle the slime, he may not do so well in an uphill battle. The archer, however, is more adept to higher terrain, and he can even kill the slime, which is otherwise meant to be killed by the knight. Likewise, the bombardier should be used in downhill battles regardless of enemy types. This is ultimately a good thing, as it means that players have to consider multiple strategies, and it leaves room for enemy variety. Just keep in mind that each class has a surprisingly wide variety of uses, and not all of them can cause physical damage. Expect to retry each level multiple times while experimenting with the classes.
Speaking of variety, you can use the hats to open up alternate pathways. I could consider keeping on the same path to take on some enemies, or I could put on the scuba mask and step into the spouting geyser where my characters will progress to higher parts of the level. There’s reason to come back and explore these pathways, as players can collect pieces of Wyvern armor. Sometimes, I admit to taking different pathways just because I found certain aspects to be frustrating—swimming in the water—so I appreciated this design aspect. Luckily, all of the levels are at a short yet decent length.
If there’s one thing to say about the variety, it’s that it introduces too much at once. I won’t lie when I say I almost gave up on this game within the first two worlds, or 20 levels. Part of this was because of the steep learning curve. While there’s a guidebook that gives a run-down on all of the jobs, it’s presented all at once—unless you want to play a level, go back and read the next chapter, which is rather unusual way of doing things. I almost had to, as I couldn’t remember all of the information I was supposed to absorb, and the game starts you off with many hats at a time. The developers were kind enough to supply signs that show you what hats you can use, but even then it took a while to learn. The other reason why I nearly gave up is because the first 20 levels are water heavy, which is where I found the controls to be the most frustrating.
But once I got past the first twenty levels, the game readjusted the challenge at a more acceptable pace, even with the aforementioned control issues. At this point, I truly was able to appreciate the complexity of the job system. I can also tackle any of the currently available five worlds at any order, which was great if I ever felt stuck. There will be more worlds with updates, and it only costs $0.99.
Every Hero can be frustrating. There are times when players will curse their characters for walking head-on into traps. But players may appreciate the complexity of the job system and the variety it provides.
This review of Every Hero was played on the iPhone.