By Josh Di Falco 14.02.2017
Vertical Drop Heroes HD is an interesting roguelike game, where a series of would-be heroes attempt to traverse through the ten procedurally-generated stages in order to vanquish the final boss at the end of the game. Starting off with minimal base statistics in health points, attack damage and special attacks, each of the pilgrims take it in turns to make it through the end, all the while increasing the base statistics along the way. Therefore, upon perishing, the next hero who enters the arena will have higher starting statistics, as each sequential hero ventures further and further. Developed by Nerdook Productions, this is the story of the would-be heroes, along with the chosen one who will eventually rise to the occasion.
The opening narrative sets the stage for the endless barrage of heroes that will soon follow. Upon stating that this story will see many heroes try to fulfil the great prophecy of vanquishing the evil, the text does a great job in explaining the game's premise. After the initial screen, a choice of three randomly-generated heroes appears on the screen, each with their own health points, attack damage, special abilities and passive abilities, as well as having their own unique name.
Upon selecting a hero, the "chosen one" appears in the main lobby, where he is discharged into the ten stages via a portal. Armed with a basic sword, the hero has to defeat the evil creatures that guards the way to the exit and collect the coins that are left behind, while finding keys to open chests or to free some of the previous heroes who have been trapped in cages. These caged heroes will then fight alongside the controlled hero until they perish themselves. Finally, some stages have quest-givers who generally state a basic mission that upon completion rewards the hero with a permanent stat boost. Well, permanent until he dies.
What makes Vertical Drop Heroes HD charming and witty is the endless deaths that each hero will succumb to in a variety of different ways. While the stat boosts are lost once a new hero embarks on the quest, the special abilities and weapons that were unlocked are now available to be chosen in the randomised character creator. Literally, the game will create three randomly generated characters, that overtime will have new and unique abilities and increasing base statistics as each of the abilities are unlocked, or as the stat boosts are purchased from the main lobby.
Because of this, the earlier levels that would've caused a bit of grief at the beginning will eventually become a breeze to run through as each hero gets stronger and stronger. The rising difficulty with each level provides a tough challenge to complete the ten stages in one fell swoop, but it is a fair challenge, which is fun to attempt each and every time. Each stage finishes with a boss fight that has its own unique attack pattern and abilities. Keeping these heroes on their toes further, the bosses are also random, meaning that the Level 1 boss, and each of the other nine bosses, will be different each time.
While overall this is a fun arcade RPG, there will be times when the screen will be covered in a huge supply of enemies. Performing special abilities on a full screen did result in some slowdown in frame rate, and twice during the review, the game ended up crashing completely and rebooting. A crash actually happened on Level 9, when the current hero was nearly at the end of his journey. Rebooting the game resulted in a loss of progress, and a new hero had to be chosen to embark on the ten-stage quest again.
This frustrating limitation ruined what was otherwise a slow and meticulous run through the stages. Though there is a timer on the bottom right that tracks the duration of the ten-stage run, generally nice and slow is the better way through the stages. Speeding through it quite quickly would do the art design such a disservice due to its vibrancy that at times it needs to be appreciated. However, a slower pace to the end is required to ensure that the hero can make the most of levelling up and collecting as much as necessary, while accumulating large quantities of keys in order to save the heroes later in the game, for assistance with the latter enemies.
Vertical Drop Heroes HD is a vibrant and charming 2D action RPG, which, combined with procedurally-generated stages, make this a fun adventure game with hours of replayability. With the clever premise that each hero that embarks on the journey thinks that they are the chosen one who will fulfil the prophecy, the countless heroes will die. However, there are permanent stat boosts that will affect the base statistics of the next hero who embarks on the quest, resulting in each hero getting stronger. With new weapons and abilities unlocked along the way, each of the randomly-generated heroes will have a larger pool of abilities to select from. Coupled with the quest-givers who grant stat boosts to the current hero upon the completion of their assigned quests, this is one of the better roguelike games out on the market. However, the constant game crashes that occur when the screen gets too busy with enemies and abilities being discharged greatly detracts from what is otherwise a hugely fulfilling experience.