Square Heroes is a multiplayer cartoon arena-shooter from Gnomic Studios. It’s an enjoyable break from the larger games on the horizon that you can jump in and out of for a quick 3 minute match or two. I’m about to jump in to a more in-depth review, but honestly, that’s all you really need to know. It also has a single-player component that’s a lot better than I thought it’d be, but the experience isn’t without its issues. If you’re still with me, let’s take a closer look in our Square Heroes Review.
There’s not a great deal to talk about here. There are cute, colourful cartoon character models up against pretty generic backdrops. Nothing stands out nor does it offend. I liked the art style but I’ve seen it a hundred times over and witnessed more unique designs from games of the same genre such as Awesomenauts. I did enjoy the various weapon designs, but again, it’s nothing spectacular. It’s fine.
It runs smoothly and the enemies are visually varied enough to differentiate their power levels. The green aliens are the easiest to defeat, the yellow slightly more resilient and the darker yellow/orange will explode when destroyed so, you know, avoid melee attacks on the dark yellow grumpy alien-fish! That’s enough of trying to stretch this out any way, on to the gameplay.
As mentioned in the beginning, Square Heroes is a cartoon-style arena shooter that focuses on quick multi-player matches. You’ll create your simple character, choose your melee weapon and special hat, pick your loadout (depending on what you’ve unlocked) and engage in battle with either your friends, strangers or computer controlled opponents (henceforth referred to as A.I).
Movement is very fluid, as all characters float around the screen using jet-packs that are as smooth as the butter on my morning toast. There’s no awkward slow-down. It doesn’t try to simulate air travel, it’s just a visual cue to your movement around the map, and I appreciated that.
No matter the match type, everybody begins with access to their melee weapon. From their, you’ll have to break open alien-fish foes for coins, that’ll fill a gauge underneath your health and ammo, until it unlocks access to your next weapon tier. You can absolutely dive head-first in to the fray wielding only your tennis racket, but it’s best to build up a supply of coins and access some projectile weapons before clashing with your real opponents. The great part about this is that, once the weapon tier is unlocked, you’ll still have access to it when you respawn. So death doesn’t come with too much of a penalty assuming you’ve managed to fill the bar to the next tier. Of course, if you’re killed with a partial bar, you’ll lose all of your coins for that tier and have to start building from your last upgrade. So if you’ve already accessed your Flamethrower but didn’t quite make it to your proximity mine, you’ll still be able to fling fire at your friends but you’ll have to get back to work on gaining your major upgrade.
Using projectiles uses a set amount of ammo depending on the weapon and once you’re out, no more pew-pew. Around the level you’ll find crate spawning portals housing health, ammo and mystery packages. They’re generous on the refresh rate so you won’t be waiting too long to use your favourite guns again, but if you do run low, your character automatically reverts to the melee weapon, meaning you don’t have to worry about being defenseless. There’s always something to use, but some weapons are more effective than others.
As you complete matches in multi-player or single player, you’ll gain experience appropriate to your performance. As you level up (to a cap of 30) you’ll unlock new weapons. Melee weapons have varying stats, although I didn’t feel much of a difference between them in my time with the game. Projectiles are somewhat unbalanced, favouring some gear over others. For instance, once you have a three-shot pistol, the need for the one shot seems a little pointless even though the three shot uses more ammo. Still, all weapons seem viable, and perhaps it was just my preferred loadout that I found effective.
Unlocking trophies in the game gifts you with special hats for your square hero. These hats have statistics of their own, each with a bonus and a penalty to something. Maybe you’ll have +15% explosion damage but -12% melee protection. Beyond that, they add a bit of a personal touch to your otherwise generic square.
The game’s single player mode has a standard story arc of a professor that’s using you and several other beasts as combatants in various tournaments. He has been breeding aliens for you to test your mettle against as you compete with each other in various match types. I found the single-player’s latter levels the easiest to level up in, as the general experience gain can be a slog towards the end and you’ll need every bit of it for the final battle. It’s a nightmare I’m yet to put to rest. The boss is actually a little unfair, capable of one-shotting your square buddy and ending the entire match from that moment, forcing you to retry.
Whatever you’re doing, Square Heroes is enjoyable enough to keep you interested in its bite-size chunks of gameplay.
Multiplayer and Game Modes
Jumping in to a game is easy enough using “Find Match” from the main menu, though there doesn’t seem to be many people playing online right now. Still, I managed to have some fun in a death-match or two, scoring a few kill-streaks with my mediocre skills. The online servers seem woefully underpopulated, despite their cross-platform play functionality, as I found out in my attempt to create my own match. Hopefully this picks up as more people look in to Square Heroes.
Death-match isn’t the only mode, however. There’s Gnome Hunt: a capture-like mode that tells you to hold a spot with a gnome on it until the gauge fills up, awarding the point to you. There’s Survival, the most drawn-out and tedious game mode, wherein players compete against hordes of enemies to out-live the timer. Last Alive mode gives each player or team an allocated number of lives you must chip away at to achieve victory. This mode can be frustrating when coupled with the poor A.I. of your team-mates more often than not. Same applies to Team Gnome Hunt, actually. I often felt like I was fighting one-on-two. The final mode is “Kingslayer”: a co-operative mission to take on the Alien King and his horde. As mentioned in the gameplay section, the one-hit-kill the Alien King can land on your heroes is a little on the overpowered side, especially when contending with the alien horde as well.
In my experience, the game is best played in standard Death match, Gnome Hunt or Last Alive. If you’ve got a good buddy to roll with, I would suggest the team versions of these types. Avoid Survival though. It’s tedious at best.
Aside from an unfair final boss, dragging character progression and low-population on the online servers, the core gameplay of Square Heroes is engaging enough to warrant your attention. I’d absolutely recommend this small title to people reading this. The single player is extensive enough to justify giving the guys at Gnomic a little love. You might play it for 30 minutes, you might play it for 3 hours. Either way, there’s a pleasant experience to be had. Just don’t expect it to keep your attention for too long, and if you manage to beat that Alien King, I salute you.
Game: Square Heroes
Review Format: Playstation 4