A game reviewer for several years, Tobias reviews games from any decade. They tend to ramble about game design and old media.
This game was provided by the kind folks over at First Press Games, you should give them a look if you are into companies who like to spotlight smaller indie titles that deserve more love.
Would also like to note while this game has been out for some time on the pc, this is finally being released on Switch. However, there are also ports of the game on PS4 and Xbox One. As I have not looked at those, this review will only cover the Switch version of the game.
With this all out of the way, let's talk about the hidden gem UnderHero.
For what feels like centuries, Chestnut Kingdom has always had one thing it does consistently. The bad guy captures the princess, a hero is chosen, and the princess is saved. It has stayed this way and has become a way of life for the people in the kingdom. Heroes are chosen at birth to be raised to be a hero, and after they complete their adventure, the task is passed on to the next hero.
Enter you, a tiny minion among hundreds more who works for the villain "Mr. Stitches." Through a small accident, you manage for the first time to kill the hero. As a surprise to everyone, including your boss, he sends you on a quest to return the various items the hero picked up so the adventure will inevitably start again. However, little does he and everyone know, that the hero's sword, in desperation, has talked you into becoming the next hero.
Platforming, RPG elements, rhythm-based combat . . . GAMESHOWS!?
Can you, as an underling, really be the hero?
As an indie RPG game, with platforming elements, you would obviously assume that it is a 2D game using pixel art. That is just a normal thing in the game market, platforming and 2D is just the correct formula. However, the thing that stands out about this game is the attention given to these things.
The colors are bright and vivid, and the lighting is amazing for this kind of title, walking down dark corridors, the only thing being some torches on walls, watching the light wash over the characters as they walk past them. They put so much attention into the visual part, way more than I would expect. If you add on the fact of the creative monster designs, the amount of smooth animation in the game, and the backgrounds, the beautiful environments you walk through.
You would be seriously convinced this was a AAA game, when I first started playing I was convinced this was not an indie title, but a game made by a massive group of people, not a small team.
Sound is a very important part of the game and how it operates. I will explain that later of course in the Gameplay section of course, but I want to touch on the quality of the sound design.
The music is very well done, it often changes depending on certain actions, and every world has a different theme, all standard affair for the most part. But the quality of the music is great, even giving you an opportunity to find cassettes in the world that contain the game music that you can listen to any time.
The first time the music pulled me in was when you have to eventually go deep into the basement of a certain area, and as you fall down below the music starts to slow down and sound more sinister to match the idea of "Things are about to get a little dangerous" small, subtle nods like that always grab my attention and earn so many bonus points with me.
Characters speak as they would be expected to, kind of an Animal Crossing or Banjo & Kazooie thing. The character text ticks and plops as characters talk with little garbled language to make it seem more immersive.
Again, this doesn't feel like an indie title, the amount of time and the quality is fantastic.
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We arrive finally at the main course.
UnderHero is a simple, yet intricate game. You could play the game as you would a normal RPG, attack, dodge, use skills, and that is all fine, but the game adds a fun spin on the system, rhythm. Everything in this games falls heavily on timing and rhythm.
Enemies have tells, or hints, that show what attack they are going to use so you can attempt to block or dodge before they attack, you have a shield you can parry with to stun enemies so you can slash back while they are stunned and earn some extra damage.
But on top of timing, you have to stay within a rhythm. whenever you attack, use skills, anything really. it all falls underneath the beat of the music, you can attack as you want, but if you time your attacks to the beat of the music, you get damage bonuses.
However, you also have to pay attention to your stamina bar, run out of stamina, you can dodge, attack, and can only guard, no parry. But successfully keeping with rhythm and dodging attacks will keep your stamina full and you can release flurries sometimes.
I don't want to spoil it, but there is a very cool mechanic where the music fades into just the beat and you can attack repeatedly until your stamina runs out. It is a very easy way to keep the damage building.
The platforming is of course very much like any other game. Puzzles, pitfalls, and spike traps. But, there are also many minigames that spice up the gameplay.
In short, the game has way more than it needed to be good. and it brings it to a level of greatness.
I use the term "Easy to learn, hard to master" very often, and for UnderHero, it is still the same way. You will quickly pick up on all of the game's features and mechanics. This is a game anyone could pick up and play.
But to be the true hero, you have to have a great amount of skill, and you need to have a lot of rhythm. I highly recommend giving this game a shot for anyone really, but for younger kids, the reading would definitely be a barrier.
Unfortunately after the game is finished, there is no end game goal, or "New Game +" But like many other games with a good sense of humor and fun gameplay, I could see myself coming back again.
UnderHero is truly a fantastic game and sticks out among the others in a day now where video games can truly be made by anyone. You can feel the heart and soul that was poured into this game, from the art and music, all the way down to the dialogue. I seriously can not recommend this game enough for anyone who likes the old days of fun RPG games you can just absorb yourself in.
Sit down, grab your talking sword, and immerse yourself in the weird world of UnderHero!
The platforming can have some collision problems
Funny and well written dialogue