A simple hero with great ethics

As the silence gradually gets filled by creeping and submerged ambient sounds, and as a bright divine-like light slowly emerges in a atmospheric monochrome world surrounded by black silhouettes, you know Hero of Many by Czech-developer Trickster Arts isn’t your ordinary action-adventure game. Without further ado, and followed by a simple, wordless and very powerful opening-cutscene, the player is introduced to the charming world of Hero of Many.

The simplicity of the game experienced in the first few minutes of gameplay is stunning – yet genius and immersive. The player takes the role as a nameless and thus anonymous (this aspect is very interesting upon analyzing the game’s story!) orb-like microorganism on a quest to defeat lethal black counterparts whilst rescuing as many friends as possible.

The silhouettes - seemingly inspired by games like Limbo - are extremely simple but manages to charm and engross players.

The silhouettes – seemingly inspired by games like Limbo – is an extremely detailed world-design (despite the lack of colours and depth) which manages to charm and engross the player.

In good accordance with the wordless story, there is no way of telling which way is the correct way through any of the 26 different maze-like maps. Players may only navigate using their memory, or by the guidance of carefully placed lanterns which gets activated once passed. However, as there is no time limit, exploration immediately becomes the natural first priority. By exploring all caves and corridors the player furthermore ensures to find close-to-all friends – the more friends you collect, the stronger (and exposed) you become.

Whilst the environment may appear peaceful and to a certain degree divine with the ambient sounds and bright light, dangers will suddenly emerge and instantly turn the gameplay into a matter of surviving and guiding your friends wisely and efficiently. Approaching enemies may moreover be done in several ways – a full-scale attack or slowly by luring and taking them out one by one or in smaller groups and thus decrease own losses. However, whilst the initial attack may be launched as the player pleases, the actual battle is automatic and cannot be controlled by the player.

The background colour and enemies gradually  changes and advances as the player progresses through the maps.

The background colour and enemy-force gradually changes and advances as the player progresses through the maps.

very impressive aspect to Hero of Many is the dynamic soundtrack – especially considering the fact that it is a ported-game (something which only the initial interface hints, by the way). In terms of quality, the music is comparable to several high-budget titles and follows the gameplay in perfect order – all from soothing and melodic to intense and motivational battle-music.

However, beyond exploration and semi-automatic battles, the gameplay is somewhat limited as the puzzles presented are extremely simple and straightforward. Instead it becomes a question of keeping as many friends alive by timing the attacks accordingly and exploring everything. This is a minor set-back, but the immersive atmosphere mixed with the great soundtrack makes up for the lack of game mechanics – Hero of Many essentially becomes a story which the player writes and interprets in their own, unique way.

Exploration has several positive effects beyond increasing your army of friends - for instance special energy-berries may be eaten to increase your friends' health and strength.

Exploration has several positive effects beyond increasing your army of friends – for instance, special berries (often hidden in deserted areas) may be eaten to increase your friends’ health and strength.

Hero of Many is an atmospheric-action adventure set in a deep undersea and monochrome world with an immersive design. Packed with friends and foes, exploration and survival becomes a natural aspect of the game, and without words or back-story, the player is allowed and encouraged to create their own story and follow their own paths.

Buy Hero of Many on Steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/297370/

A press copy for reviewing purposes was kindly provided by the developer.

Time for breakfast; Toast Time!

Breakfast.

Breakfast is usually an extremely traditional and monotonous ritual which most of us performs every morning. A physics-based and breakfast-themed game, on the other hand, is soon something completely else and, admittedly, very unusual. Yet that is exactly what Toast Time by British developer Force Of Habit is – a game initially created for Android, but recently ported to the PC and released on Steam.

Enter the high-paced, overcaffeinated and nonsensical world of Toast Time as the toast Terry (short for Toast Ejecting Recoil and Reload sYstem) with one, clear mission to complete: Secure your alarm clock and prevent the theft of your breakfast-time from unidentifiable ground- and air enemies by using various bread products such as baguettes, bread pudding or croutons as firearms. Terry shoots plain white toast-slices, but once a box is picked up, his weapon (or, rather, bread product) changes temporarily allowing for a more tactical approach as every weapon is unique and has a unique effect. Alternatively, the player may shoot Terry into the air and slam him to the ground – performing an amazing belly flop. This mechanism is together with the ton of hats and customisations yet another indication that Toast Time indeed is a game made with humour.

Toast Time introduces some very unique - and at times frustration - physics while controlling Terry.

Toast Time introduces some very unique – and at times frustration – physics while controlling Terry.

Though, the player quickly finds that Terry, as any other toast, is bound by gravity and is essentially unable to move on his own. The player must thus use the energy provided by the projectiles to control Terry as he moves in the opposite direction of the projectiles. This ultimately means that not only does the player need to take out all enemies before they reach the alarm clock, but they also have to aim carefully to ensure Terry remains the correct places to defend from the next group of enemies – something which furthermore drastically increases the game speed due to the increased amount of clicking. Aiming carefully while keeping momentum is moreover crucial in order to rack up a high combo and thus increase your final score and rating.

The game does not hide the obvious fact that it is a ported Android/iOS-game, but it does not interfere with the gameplay which undoubtedly proves a challenge.

The game does not hide the obvious fact that it is a ported Android/iOS-game, but the gameplay remains unaffected and does prove a nice challenge.

The special physics and controls also means that some maps require quite some coordination in order to defend them most efficiently. The player will also find that certain locations combined with specific weapons on several maps are significantly better than others – i.e. sliding on the ground back and forth or staying in a top corner. The aforementioned baguette, for instance, may be shot into the ground and effectively create a temporarily barrier. The various maps are furthermore decently varied with an increasing difficulty level, which means the player will find themselves redoing several of the levels to secure three stars on each.

Toast Time does not hide the fact that it’s a ported game – as clearly seen in the screenshots and trailer. And while certain elements in the game (especially the interface) are heavily influenced by this, then the game remains attractive to PC-players as well due to the challenging and unique gameplay throughout more than 50 levels. The smaller screen is essentially not a problem, nor is the mouse control as both effectively adds to the gaming experience. Though players should be aware that there is no option to change this.

The importance of coffee is clear in Toast Time.

The importance of coffee is clear in Toast Time.

We have seen a large and exponentially growing amount of iOS- and Android-games being ported to other platforms such as Steam throughout the past few years – many with mixed to negative results. The process of re-creating a game to another platform is troublesome as many elements – all from interfaces to controls – needs to be re-evaluated and checked accordingly. Most importantly, and regardless of the ported platform, the game needs to provide entertainment and challenges for longer than the average smartphone app-session of around 13 minutes to both justify the new platform and often increased price. Fortunately this is not impossible, and Toast Time is a brilliant example of how humour, challenging and fast-paced gameplay combined with neat monochromatic graphics can make a successful ported game.

It is important to stress, however, that the game may be completed in a few hours, but obtaining three stars in all levels and completing the ironman challenge (finish all levels without dying once) takes significantly longer. It appears as if the developer expects players to be done with everything in around six hours based on the achievement unlocked after roughly six hours gameplay. Players looking for a fun and at times hectic game with challenging gameplay and interesting physics will likely enjoy Toast Time.

Buy Toast Time on Steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/316660/

A press copy was kindly provided for this review.