Flip Hero returns for the final battle against his nemesis, Cruiser Tetron – but can he really stop the reign of the machine warlord for all time?
What We Think
Constructed using YoYo Games’ Game Maker, Hero Core (sequel to Hero) strips away flashy graphics and complex controls, leaving the player with a classic shoot-em-up that seems simple, yet remains highly engaging.
Flip ‘Em Off
A brief opening cinematic tells the tale of the seemingly never-ending battle between Flip and his ever-reincarnating robotic enemy Tetron. You decide to take matters to his home world in the hopes of putting him down for the last time.
You can count the colors included in the game palette on one hand. In fact, if you were to lose three fingers on one hand, you could still do the same. Hero Core is only a couple of steps above ASCII graphics. Accept it. Now get over it; you’re in for one hell of a ride.
To assault baddies, Flip does just as his name suggests. The two fire buttons will flip you to direct your attacks left or right, and you can fly in any direction. You’ll start with only your basic blaster weapon, but for each boss you defeat, you’ll receive an upgrade. Some will boost your fire power while others will grant you access to new and more difficult parts of the games single map. For the extremely daring, Remar Games claims it’s possible to go toe-to-toe against Tetron without any of the upgrades. For an easier task, might I suggest pimp-slapping a howler monkey in the rain forest and living to tell the tale?
There is gamepad support available, and unless you’re some kind of wacky keyboard sage, I highly recommend taking this little devil of a game on with a controller. Early stages are deceptively sparse when it comes to enemy mobs. That changes quickly, and before long you’ll find yourself weaving your way between enemies, shrapnel, liquid metal downspouts and enemy projectiles. All enemies are constructed of only a few pixels each (as is Flip). They may not look like much, but there is a great diversity to be found in the way they’ll attack. Later foes pack a real wallop, so get your dodge-and-weave on early or you’ll regret it.
Every once in a while the Player Hunter will enter a room, clearing out all enemies when he does. You’ll have to stay alive long enough to put a dent in his hit points before he’ll retreat. Did I mention he can fly through solid objects? He can fly through solid objects. Though he sounds unstoppable, his projectiles are not. Turn his advantage into a weakness, and you’ll fare just fine against him.
Old Boss 2.0
Boss enemies are classic in design, yet devious in construction. Three-headed dragons, wicked drilling devices and blood-thirsty computer cores will spew rage and plasma in your general direction. They’ll have you dancing between blasts while you try to line up your shots, or shutting down defenses so you can fly inside to blast away internal power batteries. You can tackle them in any order, and a threat gauge on the top of the screen will give you an idea of what kind of challenge you can expect in any given area.
While all of this is taking place, the bleakness of the world is lit up with some of the gnarliest chip tunes I’ve come across since Anamanaguchi scored the Scott Pilgrim game. Music makers Brother Android have created a bass heavy bevy of epic battle music. The game is worth playing just to hear their work.
There are three difficulty settings, and I imagine the most difficult stage should only be attempted by the most seasoned SHMUP players (I was struggling with Normal, myself). Playing through on the middle ground had me shaking my head, never so much frustrated as stunned. For the brave who soldier on and defeat all bosses and collect all computer terminals before defeating the end boss you are rewarded with…bragging rights. Your save file will have three dots at the end of it. But for a game that costs nothing, it sure beats a kick in the teeth.
Hero Core plays like a classic SHMUP stripped down to the bare essentials. In the place of flashy graphics and sound effects there are two-tone sprites and insanely catchy 8-bit music. At its best, it feels like the classic game Adventure was fused with Metroid, with a generous helping of CAVE shooters firing thick volleys of warning shots. It is a little short, but considering the price of admission (or lack thereof) there is little reason to miss this tiny gaming gem.