Tag Archives: Permadeath

Vertical Drop Heroes HD review

It’s been a long time since I sat in front of a PC, loaded up a web browser and played a Flash game. Things have moved on a lot since those days and unfortunately some of these gems aren’t getting the traffic they used to. Vertical Drop Heroes HD, however, has ascended from Flash game to console game, and is impressively the brain child of just one man.

Like most games of this type, repetition is key to progression, so the more you play the more you’re likely to succeed in the end. However, with death being an inevitability, and no chance of starting where you left off, it makes for quite a tiring experience. At the start of each game you get to choose from three randomly generated heroes with varying amounts of damage and health. Each character has a weapon that you can choose to auto attack the enemies, however, this, in my opinion, should be turned off due to your hero often attacking when it’s too late.

You jump into a randomly generated world and make you way down, yes down, not sideways or up, fighting as you go against randomly generated enemies. When, and if, you make it to the bottom there is a huge boss that is, you guessed it, randomly generated. You can skip the boss though, if you’re quick enough, because if you don’t have the damage or the health then death spells the end of your chosen hero.

Scattered around each level are gold coins that can be used to buy temporary power-ups or more permanent upgrades from merchants before or during each stage. Upgrades will add more attack power or health to your hero. Experience boosts are also an option and come in handy as you descend, giving you an upper hand on the boss. Also, placed around each stage are keys. The keys are used to unlock chests, alternative paths and, more importantly, the exit if you don’t want to face the boss. This does come in handy if things haven’t gone to plan on your way down.

To add a little extra challenge to each level, there is a quest giver placed towards the beginning of each stage. They give you optional quests to collect items as you go down, such as collecting specific orbs or animals. When you get to the bottom you can use a magic portal which, for a cost, teleports you back to the start of the stage to have another go if you missed something on your first run.

The bonus to Vertical Drop Heroes is the short sharp experience it offers. The levels are brief and can be completed quickly if you want, or you can take it slow and methodical, tactically considering you descent and collecting those optional quest gubbins. If you die, pick another hero and rinse and repeat. Due to it’s lack of depth it does get a repetitive but it’s well suited to limited play session where you only have a little time to spare.

Visually Vertical Drop Heroes is basic, but with a game like this you quickly stop looking at the visuals because you’re so fixated on dodging or collecting. A small game like this should definitely be on your ready to play list for those quick gaming sessions when you have nothing else to do, however, I must admit I can think of better things to blow £6 on; if dropped to half price then I’d say it’s definitely worth a shot.

Overall Vertical Drop Heroes is cheap and cheerful, fair play to Nerdook for transforming a flash game into something a little more substantial. Whilst the game is worth a go it’s not something that will grab your attention for hours. The first ten minutes will give you everything you need to get to grips with it, meaning there’s no real incentive to carrying on playing.

Thanks to Xbox and Nerdook for supporting TiX

Don’t Starve: Giant Edition review

Don’t Starve is built around a simply goal: don’t starve. It’s about survival, with minimal resources and unknown dangers threatening to kill you at every turn. As such, it’s a challenging game, made even more so by a philosophy of no hand holding, forcing you to experiment in order to discover what’s on offer. It’s initially frustrating but figuring out how to survive a little longer each time is a compelling trick that keeps you playing despite the harshness.

You take control of gentlemen scientist, Wilson, who has been manipulated into creating a device and unleashing antagonist Maxwell, who pulls you into a dark and mysterious world. In this world you must try to survive for as long as you can, by gathering food, building shelter, combatting madness, and hiding or slaying the beasts that roam the land. Meanwhile, if you can find Maxwell’s Door, you can uncover more of the narrative and defeat Maxwell.

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The narrative is more of a scene setup than an immersive tale, but does more than enough to introduce you to this strange and eerie world. A cardboard cut-out, sepia toned, Tim Burton aesthetic adds to its eerie vibe and makes for a unique visual identity.

Surviving in this world is a chore. Food is scarce, resources for building things are randomly generated and often also scarce, and the permadeath is a constant companion that plagues the back of your mind. Meanwhile, figuring out what to do, how to build things and what to prioritise is a trial and error challenge that’ll take multiply deaths and restarts to figure out. But you’ll certainly feel compelled to conquer it. The world is fascinatingly weird and each death is a lesson you can trade for a little more time surviving next go around.

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A day and night cycle adds additional threats and challenges. During the day you’re free to explore and gather food and resources, when twilight hits it’s wise you find a safe place and prepare to hunker down for the night. At night you’re surrounded in darkness and nasty creatures come out which mean to eat you. You’ll need to create fires and torches to keep creatures at bay, and if you’re caught in the pitch black a mysterious entity called, Charlie, very quickly saps your health.

Furthermore, your hunger is a constant concern, forcing you to take more risks to gather food further afield, or figure out alternative methods to feed yourself by exploring what’s possible in the build menu. But if you get caught in the dark and witness or have to perform horrible things, such as grave robbing, your sanity begins to fall. Fail to raise it again by performing pleasant actions, such as picking flowers or wearing dapper clothes, and you’ll begin to see things, things that can become corporeal and, if your sanity falls to low, eat you. It’s a dangerous world and survival is hard. Push on, however, and eventually you’ll unlock additional characters who you can try to survive with instead, some of whom bring new challenges to the mix, such as one who won’t eat vegetables.

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Indeed, Don’t Starve: Giant Edition’s pleasantly simple premise rewards you with a fascinating and creepy world and a competitive compulsion to survive for more days than the last time in its procedurally generated world. And while the challenge is stiff and the lack of tutorials initially frustrating, you’ll soon find yourself struggling to resist the urge to try one last time, which inevitably leads to far more attempts and many more hours of fun.

Thanks to Klei Entertainment for their support 

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