Where to begin with I Am The Hero? Let’s start with the fact that this is a side-scrolling beat ’em up, but not like the ones we are used to. The pixel art is good, and combos are easily accessible, but is it enough to stand out?
While I Am The Hero follows the trend of pixel art style visuals, it plays with a strange perspective when playing. It’s not straight on ‘side-scroller’, nor is it a 3D game or even isometric. The viewing angle is just a little askew, but I kind of like it. It stands out a little more than your average game in this category, but does it do enough to stand on its own two feet? Not so much.
I can’t help but think this is emulating the visuals of Katana Zero, only without the same effect. The same for the soundtrack – the electro-style score appears to be influenced by the title mentioned above too, but a bit on the monotonous side. Sure, a lot of the games in this genre sound like that but let us not forget Streets of Rage 2 or… ok, so I can’t think of many, but still. I Am The Hero felt just a tad bit on the visual side of Katana Zero, in my opinion. The gameplay, however, is not. This is a beat ’em up, but just with a few highlights.
Like most beat ’em ups, there is the ever-present combo multiplier hovering on the screen as you pull off moves. I was never one to be able to get the numbers up too high as always trying to pull off extravagant moves instead. In I Am The Hero, it’s a button masher so no need to move the stick back twice, forward once, right arm under left armpit and X, Y then recite the lyrics to Bohemium Rhapsody in Russian. The key point is to launch the enemy into the air and repeatedly hit them while airborne. It’s surprisingly easy to do and keeps you out of the way of other enemies. But… it’s just a little boring to spam the attacks. The same applies to get an enemy (including bosses) into a corner and repeatedly hitting them without losing any energy. Sure this is all done on the normal settings, and once you unlock the harder difficulties, I can’t say the same thing will occur. I also can’t tell if you will come back to this for repeated plays. I won’t. Not because it’s so bad, just because it’s quite generic and doesn’t really offer me any further value.
That’s not to say that I Am The Hero doesn’t have anything else on the table. When you complete each level, you have the option to either upgrade the attacks of your player or unlock a new character. This doesn’t mean you replace the titular hero with someone else, but you can access them as a tag team player. This has a significant advantage as they have their own health levels. Should their health drop down too low, swap to the other player until some health is available (pizza and coke drops) and it enables you to keep going. The only real issue with this is you don’t know who the character will be. Some are useful, others just for getting hit until health appears.
So there’s difficulty levels on completion, new characters and an easy combat system (in a good way) – what else? Other than the typical move left to right and hitting everything in sight, not much else really. The levels are relatively short but do offer a good selection of backdrops. I’m growing tired of pixel art games that do the same thing over and over, but the art here is excellent and the skewed angle bespoke. However, it won’t replace my go-to side scrollers. Games such as Mother Russia Bleeds or The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors – both available on the Nintendo eShop.
The combat isn’t bad, and there are a good variety of enemies. Still, there is the classic scenario of introducing an enemy as a mid-boss, then a few paces along there’s three or four of them attacking you at once. The most annoying thing for me though is the charge attack. Hold down X and your hero will power up a move that launches the attacker – but not so you can then jump up and pull off a wonder-hit combo. Instead, they bounce across the screen like a pinball. I found the effect annoying, but it was a pain for when you had multiple enemies on screen with this ragdoll henchman bouncing all over the place. A small critique to make, but annoying nonetheless.
Now I’m not the type of person to put on a particular genre and dismiss it on the basis as it’s not my thing. However, beat ’em ups are quite possibly one of my favourites – and side-scrolling being one of them. Titles such as Final Fight (you can find in the Capcom Beat ‘Em Ups bundle on the eShop) were one of my go-to games growing up. Not much has happened with the genre, and it’s only with these retro releases that they find a new market or revitalise an interest from some relic gamers such as myself. However, I Am The Hero doesn’t stand out enough to garner further attention.
This isn’t the type of game that should stutter and splutter, so I wasn’t surprised that the animation and fighting are very swift and well animated. However, on two occasions, the game crashed on me. One where my character froze but took damage from the henchmen. The second was about two or three levels in, and the hero somehow disappeared into the road. The enemies remained and walked up and down, but I had zero control over the player. I was able to restart the stage again but obviously had to redo it. For me, it wasn’t a trainwreck as some would say – I’ve played my fair share of triple-A titles that have done the same, but it happens. As long as I don’t lose a saved game, I’m fine. In this case, nothing damaging happened other than restarting the stage. It won’t reflect on the score as I haven’t been able to replicate it again, and as I said, there wasn’t any slowdown throughout. I was just unlucky, I guess.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I Am The Hero Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
An average side-scrolling beat ’em up with a few new twists on the genre by making combos much easier to pull off and having access to a teammate. However, over quite quickly and does get repetitive early on.
Good looking pixel art animation and backdrops
Easy to perform long combos
Additional character to play or buff for the main hero
Expected of the genre, but repetitive
Aside for a few visual perks and gameplay, not much else on offer
Combos are great, but combat isn’t entirely satisfying