Welcome to Heroland, a magical theme park where anyone can become a hero! …Except you, you’re an employee. Take control of Lucky, your silent, poofy haired protagonist, as you dive into a hysterical and quirky RPG adventure, brought to you by the minds behind MOTHER 3, Fantasy Life, and Legend of Mana.
Your job as a tour guide is to lead your guests through the theme park’s dungeons, taking down the “monsters” (who are actually your co-workers) that await. As their guide, you aren’t doing any of the fighting, but rather, assisting them to make sure they have the best experience they can (AKA, not getting beaten up on their day out).
Every few seconds, Lucky can offer assistance to the guests in the form of guidance, using a flag signal, or using a healing item. Guidance allows you to instruct one guest on what specific action they should perform, and on what enemy. The flag signals affect the whole party, giving them a more general instruction to follow, such as ‘all aim at one enemy’, or ‘all put your guards up’. The healing items are self explanatory, but you can only use one at a time. As for the rest of the time, the guests act however they please. Their AI isn’t bad, but sometimes you’ll find yourself wondering what on earth they’re doing targeting random enemies when they could have finished off a particularly bothersome one two hits ago.
This ‘hands-off’ take on an RPG at first felt a little limited. When you first start the game, the cooldown time you have to wait to give assistance is at its longest; this improves as you level up Lucky. This means that at first, it really feels like you’re doing more sitting back and watching than actually playing the game, especially when the early enemies are so easy that the guests don’t really need any help. This does improve as you progress however, due to the cooldown time improving and the enemies becoming much more challenging. It becomes a fun mad rush, thinking on the fly what the best decision is to ensure your guests do the best they can. And, if you’re feeling a little impatient, there’s also a speed-up button you can use to make the combat three-times faster than usual. Perfect for if you’re in a rush!
All the attacks, from your guests and the enemies, are on timers rather than being turn based. Stronger moves generally have a longer charge time, and leave guests vulnerable for longer. You have a lot of guests to guide, and each has a unique move, as well as different attacks they get from using different weapons. However, giving them a new weapon is the only way you can customise the way they work in battle, which does feel a bit limited.
Speaking of the guests, they are brilliant. The writing in general is fantastic, and is by far the best thing about the game. It’s packed to the brim with quips, humour and pop-culture references, and is a real treat to read. The characters all feel very unique, and through gaining friendship with them (by making them happy on the tours) you can unlock sidequests with them which allow you to get to know them better. Not one character felt like there was no point in them being there, and all of them will make you smile in their own way.
The unique art style, with its bouncy and stretchy pixel art character sprites on a colourful cartoony background really gives the game character, and coupled with its constant zany humour, it truly makes for a very unique and fun experience. The music is also very pleasant and cheery; it has some really catchy tunes.
As the game progresses, you and the guests start uncovering the mysteries and dark secrets that reside within Heroland, but the tone remains very light, and the game generally doesn’t take itself seriously. The writing is really what drives the game, and is what will have you itching to power through more dungeons to see what comes next. However, the dialogue stands as the only thing in place to break up the dungeons, which, after a while do begin to feel monotonous.
The enemies can drop different treasures when you defeat them, from rare collectible plushies, to new weapons for you to use, and while this offers a vast amount of items for completionists to collect, it’s all done through repeating the same dungeons over and over. I personally felt it could have done with some other mode, maybe a minigame of sorts, to break up the main gameplay a bit more so that it didn’t feel as repetitive. The game is really long too, and while this may be a real treat for those who fall in love with the humour and characters, others may find the unvaried gameplay tiresome.
Despite its flaws however, Heroland has a lot to offer for those who can get behind a game with a very self-aware, unapologetically funny sense of humour. Even if you can’t see yourself finishing the game completely, the experience is still something very special that you won’t forget; it’s definitely worth a shot.
Catherine Lewis is a Games Editor. If you want to get involved with Games, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org