Like the sci-fi/fantasy section of your local bookstore, the app store is inundated with a ton of schlocky tripe full of cliches and ham-handed coding. But, occasionally, floating amongst the sea of detritus, a shiny beacon pokes it’s robotic head out and provides you with a mobile gaming gem. Can Sci-Fi Heroes really be the second coming of sci-fi games, or will it sink back to the depths, shackled by a bad plot and poor gameplay?
Thankfully, the game opens up with a bang. Instead of your standard loading screen, you’re ears and eyes are treated to an animated opening to enlighten you to the universe you’ll be protecting. The voice over is provided by none other than Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame. Arguably the most jaded, sharply tongued, brilliant game critic, Yahtzee’s fingerprints show up in quite enjoyable ways throughout the game. But more on this later.
The set-up is quite standard. There are four peaceful planets singing kumbaya together when the inevitable group of “school yard bully” invaders attack. Now, such a standard setup would seem boring, but the combination of Yahtzee’s satirical and off handed voice over and the playful animation makes this game ring true. You realize that it is a game without pretensions and that you are in for story laden adventure with more character than you’ve seen in awhile.
Once you are walked through a quick tutorial where you build up your team of heroes, you are allowed to blast your way through waves of enemies. The controls are simple enough but are occasionally a bit fiddly on the cramped iPhone. They are not quite as responsive as you’d want them to be when you are dragging an attack vector onto a specific enemy. Each character has their own set of weapons, armor, abilities, and personality. Their strengths and weaknesses force you to figure out a strategy that works for each level. Your standard, healer, tank, paladin trifecta is usually your best bet. Have the enemies chase you around your tank while your warrior whittles away at their health from afar.
The difficulty curve on this game will certainly baffle you at first. After the first pair of levels go by without incident, you’re annihilated on the third. This may be confusing for some since the game presents itself as somewhat story driven, with each level opening with a bit of witty banter that smacks again of Yahtzee’s sardonic wit. But once you’ve died a few dozen times and your frustration has exploded out of the top of your head, you realize that the game wants you to grind for upgrades. It all makes sense now! Short levels, an upgrade system with high costs. What is this, World of Warcraft?!
Thankfully no, a few play throughs of previous levels will allow you to advance without incident. However, you are given the option to buy your way through the upgrades with real money. You can’t forget this because the game reminds you almost every time you complete a level. Thankfully, you can progress through the game and not have to worry about a financial sink hole sucking everything out of your bank account.
Overall, Sci-Fi Heroes is perfectly acceptable game. It won’t set the ozone layer of any planet on fire, but it is a brilliant little game with tons of personality and is great for when you have a few minutes and don’t want to dive into anything too deep. Sci-Fi Heroes will restore your faith in pocket sized space adventures and provide a bit of time wastey fun to your already hectic day of blasting away aliens in Halo 4.