Heroes need time
It’s a universal truth of videogames that RPG’s cannot throw the player into the action without explaining the full history of absolutely everything in the game including characters, backdrops, and incidental animals that serve no other purpose than to scurry as you walk past them in the inevitable forest, either through a 700 page instruction manual or introductory cut-scenes that last four hours. That may be the longest sentence I’ve ever written, and I’m not going to change it.
Heroes In Time takes the latter approach by forcing you to sit through a lengthy intro which is so long that at one point I found myself wondering if this actually was the game. Thankfully it isn’t, and I’d like to skip over it, but because I’m duty bound by the laws of good reviewing to provide you with a semblance of the story, I’ll reverse engineer an explanation.
You play as Mikhael, also known as Wolf-Boy (this will make sense in a minute), Mikhael has been taken under the wing of Carl, who is the brother of Ceasar. Ceasar is distrustful of Mikhael ever since they found him wandering in a forest acting like a wolf ten years ago. Fair enough.
They were on a hunting trip with their father, The King, who had ten years previously decreed that one of his newly born twin boys must die on the advice on a royal aide named Pela. Apparently twins are a bad omen for Royalty. That’s also two sets of ten year gaps before the game has even started if you’re counting.
He decides which son to kill, and sends out another aide called Pelcheps to do so, but she has a change of heart and tries to flee with the boy. Pela and her guards catch up with them and force them to the edge of a cliff. Pelcheps has no other choice but to jump to have a chance of saving the boy, to which Pela responds ‘Damn, that bastard’. Quite.
This is a 16-bit quest-em-up that will immediately take you back to the classic Zelda titles where characters appeared on-screen as head-bobbing sprites and completing one game task opens up 34 more. Once you’re allowed to control Mikhael, your first task is to choose your class. If this ever happened in real life, I’d select ‘Royalty’ and be done, but here you have Knight, Warrior, Archer and Wizard, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Once you accept a class, you can’t change it.
And then it’s off to the quests which are lengthy, multi-parted like Will.I.am’s hair and full of variation to keep you interested. Kill 14 elves, then take their helmets to a prince who gives you gems in exchange. Take these gems to the castle on the hill to the King who lost some from his crown while bathing in a tub of wine. But wait! Here come a group of robot goblins who’d like you to help them travel into 2213 to kidnap the President of the United States and…I think I may have gone off track slightly, but you get the point.
You certainly won’t get bored as the game sends you here and there to complete this and that while doing the accepted RPG thang of collecting mountains of items to combine and equip. The controls are a standard virtual D-Pad setup, which is customisable, but can at times confuse as their translucent appearance leads to you looking down at exactly where your fingers are pressing. It also took me a while to figure out how to access Mikhael’s inventory as its not immediately apparent. And because I’m in a particularly mischievous mood at the moment, I’m not going to tell you how to do it.*
Where combat is concerned, it’s a real-time affair, so when you load up an arrow to kill a T-Rex, you’re actually loading up an arrow to kill a T-Rex. Cool. Each class makes use of different weapons and messing around with all the combinations knowing you’re in full control of decapitating an armed guard adds an extra satisfying element to gameplay.
There are two graphical options which apparently affect the way it plays – Advanced makes the maps larger and clearer, and Standard zooms the camera in and makes gameplay smoother. I say apparently because the game seemed to run fine whichever I chose. This isn’t a 56GB powerhouse, so I don’t think it’s taxing the iPhone’s processors too much.
In any case, its a good looking title-not particularly sharp, especially when zoomed in-but the large, colourful sprites and varied environments give it the classic 90′s RPG feel you know and love, and remember fondly and then realise it’s not quite as great as you remember, but is cool all the same.
The soundtrack is one of those nostalgic scores that makes you wish for a sound test and does a good job with creating an appropriate atmosphere at times of drama or victory. Some of the tunes can get annoying when the loop restarts from the beginning as you re-enter an area you’ve just been in. If you’re playing a mission that involves hopping back and forth between locations, it might get a little irritating. Alternatively, you can make the game a lot harder for yourself just not going backward. You see, there’s an answer for every videogame problem.
We’re not going to get Zelda on iOS anytime soon, so this is somewhere near being the next best thing. Just make sure to book an appointment at the barber before sitting down to the introduction. By the time it’s over, you’ll need it.
*Press the character icon in the top left corner of the screen. Thank me in Pounds Sterling.
Here’s another quest: follow Kevin on Twitter @dreagleg
Heroes In Time is available for free for the iPhone. Get it now on the