By Ofisil 17.03.2017
Gamers, gather around. Let's just all be honest and accept this little truth. Apart from nostalgia, there's simply no reason to play any Atari 2600 title. Actually, for those who have a deep love for the "craft," there is one more. Going back to the 2600 is sort of a history lesson; it's a trip back to a time where the standards of the industry weren't standards yet. Activision was one of the most important developers in the medium, and especially in the action genre, as evident in Pitfall!, River Raid, and even Crackpot. H.E.R.O., though, was one of its lesser known creations, despite it being quite innovative for its time. An unfairly forgotten gem? Cubed3 takes a look at it to find out.
As is always the case in Atari 2600 titles, the concept can be described in one short sentence, and that sentence is as follows when it comes to H.E.R.O.: miners have been trapped deep into the earth, and a hero named… Hero, must go down there and save them. Furthermore, and again, like with most games on the system, when it comes to the graphics, the only thing that matters is whether it's easy to understand what's going on, and, thankfully, it is - the miners look like humans, the critters like critters, and the jet-pack flying, laser-throwing, dynamite-placing hero looks exactly as one.
Yes, these are his powers, something which is pretty impressive for such an old video game, even more so when one realises how well all these work, especially back then when a video game would be viewed as a good one if it was actually functional. Hero can detonate walls by placing dynamite and laser-kill the bats, spiders, and snakes that reside in these caverns with relative ease, with the only move that's not as responsive being the mini-helicopter hovering, although it's not as bad that it destroys the fun.
From the best Atari 2600 title to the worst, however, few of them had the capacity to last a long time, with many soon turning into nothing more than parts of history, and, unfortunately, such is the case with H.E.R.O. too; although definitely a well-designed part of history. The reason for that is how low the replay value is, even when compared with the rest of its ilk.
All 2600 games where repetitive, but some of them had that special something that made them endure a bit more. Pitfall!, for instance, had only a couple of different "screens" that would endlessly repeat themselves, but it also managed to feel as an adventure, mainly through the use of a timer that forced players be as fast as possible (and usually fail while at it). In comparison, after, say, level three or four, everything feels (and is) the same here, albeit, a tad harder, with more hazards, and so on.
H.E.R.O. is an impressively well-done piece of software that deserves to be remembered. Apart from a bunch of really hardcore retro game enthusiasts, though, there's simply no reason to go back to it. It's one of the pioneers of the genre… but it doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame.