Indie games tend to stand out for a variety of reasons. Some have cool artwork, others unique concepts, a few are just so bizarre it’s hard not to take notice, that they offer a unique experience for players. Unruly Heroes adapts A Journey to the West with charming art, a couple quirky characters and team based mechanics. Given all the charm, is it the type of game that is the full package or is it all style and no substance.
Those familiar with A Journey to the West or just the core concepts behind it, something Dragonball took a fair amount from, this adventure shouldn’t be too surprising. The heroes are moving to defeat evil and overcome impossible odds or at least do their best. Most of the story is actually conveyed through actions, over outright words, making it a lot easier to get engrossed in, something that gameplay does a good job of building upon.
At its core, Unruly Heroes is a fairly simple side scrolling beat ‘em up game. The four characters have their own unique abilities, each suited for different situations, and their desired play style. For instance, Wukong (monkey) can double jump and has quick attacks, where as Bajie (pig) uses his ears to glide and is more of an area fighter. It makes for a different experience, though you can focus on the characters you want outside of specific parts.
To give each character a chance to shine, certain collectibles and obstacles require one of their abilities. There is also shrines where they use a unique ability to overcome whatever the challenge is. Sadly, they don’t do much to add to the experience, if anything it bounces between varied gameplay and pointless side task.
Most of the time players can focus on the character that suits their play style and choose the tactics that work best for them. Often times bosses and other foes are either easily dispatched, with fairly easy to read moves or offer cheap mechanics that might make newcomers struggle. Similar things can be said about level design.
While I can get behind collectibles having a pass/fail element or even require a bit more forethought to obtain, there are multiple sections that are hard to overcome if you don’t know what to expect. One such section was fairly early on and is a huge ramp that you need to jump off of and avoid some spikes. If you don’t jump at a specific time and/or use a certain jump or an exact way, a character will briefly die.
Not only will this tank your ranking, it makes for needless frustration. Subsequent runs shouldn’t offer as much, if any, problems, it’s just not the most enjoyable experience. That being said, I do enjoy how collectibles are easy enough to find if you pay attention or have played enough games, yet can still fool trained gamers.
Outside of gameplay, Unruly Heroes is a pretty game to look at. Bright colors and distinct designs help it stand out and leave an impression. Similar things can be said about the various enemies. Be it floating skulls, lizard people or just a demonic tree, it’s a pretty game to look at.
That being said, Unruly Heroes suffers from some performance issues. It wasn’t uncommon for scripted scenes to be a little laggy or some sections to be less fluid than they should be. Nothing is going to make or break your experience or result in your death, it’s just important to note that it isn’t as fluid as it could potentially be.
Unruly Heroes has a lot of charm and is certainly fun enough to give it the time of day. Sure, the story is nothing new and the gameplay isn’t going to turn heads but every game doesn’t need to stand out in every way to be fun or entertaining. With a lovely art style and solid combat, it’s easy to see the value if you enjoy platformers or games with simple combat systems.
[Editor’s Note: Unruly Heroes was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]