I started playing Vertical Drop Heroes HD, an RPG platformer made by Nerdook (a one-man developer known for his unique outlook on gaming), and didn’t play anything else for days. You start at the top of each level with a randomly generated character, collecting coins and defeating enemies until you reach the exit at the bottom of each stage, which is guarded by a boss. Killing enemies rewards you with experience, which as always, levels your hero up and makes him stronger. If that was all that is on offer with this game, there is no way it would have hogged my PS4 for four days in a row. Fortunately the RPG and rogue-like elements that Vertical Drop Heroes HD provides managed to not only keep me coming back for more, but offered a different and unique experience on every run.
The first few characters that are generated for you to play as are basic dudes with limited skills. They have weapons that will alter your play-style in a small way (spears have more reach but do less damage than swords, for example), but the skills these guys have are limited. While playing through a stage however, you will often encounter one or two vendors, that for a price, will unlock various powers and abilities. The catch is that these new toys will only be available for characters created for future play-throughs.
After you die a few times, you’ll notice the characters generated for a new game will start to have the abilities and traits bought from the aforementioned vendors. Instead of the basic arrow ability, you might have the ability to summon some skeletons, or teleport-attack a random enemy on the screen. Some characters will be able to double-jump, others will start the game with bonus health. These abilities can really force you to adopt a completely different play style than previous runs, and the combinations that are generated become more interesting the more you buy. If none of the characters provided at the start of a new game are to your tastes, then more can be generated for a small gold fee.
Any coins collected during your adventures are added to a total that stays with you, even after death. These coins are used to buy upgrades from vendors, but can also be spent at the start of your adventure to permanently increase health and damage. These coins can also be spent at shrines sprinkled throughout the game that will offer those same boosts, albeit only for that run. This made spending the coins a decision that needed to be carefully considered, as the cheaper shrine-boosts while certainly useful, would leave you strapped for gold when it came to the permanent buffs, if abused.
The visuals are very cutesy, but very average. It’s a middle-of-the-road affair here; nothing really stands out, but nothing is bad either. The enemies you encounter are themed to each stage, but it’s fairly generic stuff. You’ll play through a desert stage, a forest, a haunted castle, and general places you usually visit in platforming games. The stages are procedurally generated, so you’ll never play the same stage twice, but this can also cause some bugs that range from minor, to console-freezingly huge. The music is also themed to each stage, but again, pretty average fare that can irritate after a while.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Vertical Drop Heroes HD. Grinding through the same few stages would have been borderline boring if not for the fact that the characters could play so differently depending on the skills and traits you acquire. It’s also has the option for you to complete each stage as a ‘pacifist’, killing no enemies and instead collecting the pacifist orbs for gold and experience instead. New game plus is available upon completion for replayability, as well as a split-screen multiplayer mode. The bugs can be extremely annoying, but I’m willing to chalk that up to some dodgy random stage generation and only happened a few times. All in all, I think it’s a decent little romp and I’m not the biggest platforming fan, so it must have done something right.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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