Fantastic Studio it never gets boring, as it has already shown in the two titles launched over the last few years, namely Landflix Odissey e Black Paradox. Having reached the third title, the Roman team proves to be increasingly unrestrained, just like the game in question, continuing production under the banner of irony and simplicity of language, without forgetting a good dose of winks at American pop culture. These are the essential lines of Hero Express, game of horizontal sliding guide released for the laptop Nintendo Switch last 5 July, following availability on Steam and Xbox One.
A half hero and the taste of defeat
In this colorful two-dimensional world we will live a story whose incipit is really short and clear: monsters have invaded planet earth and only our hero will be able to save her, thanks to his many infallible tools and his friend the deliveryman, his right hand in the worst moments. In fact, our hero is far from the unbeatable characters we have in mind. Already for how he was baptized, Sadly Hero, the adventure really promises to be a whole program. Deprived of his powerful weapons, he is lost: we will have to help him by getting behind the wheel of Delivery Guy, the courier who quickly and avoiding any obstacle brings precious loads to their destination, the tools necessary to save the world.
We come across a series of paths along which the team reaffirms the two common denominators of the games it has developed so far: retro style and gameplay difficulty. The classic "easy to learn, hard to master" style already found in the previous productions of Fantastico Studio is thus re-proposed, so as not to fail to let us taste the bitter taste of perennial defeat (or almost) also in Hero Express. In fact, although it is easy to learn to drive our vehicle, it is quite another thing to arrive unscathed at the finish line of each level, indicated at the top by the progress bar along the route. A difficult journey that will easily blow your nerves, but those who are already used to the production of the studio know very well that their games do not know the concept of "simplicity".
Driving: easy to say, difficult to do
Still talking about vehicles, we will guide one that is always different in each level, as well as landscapes and final bosses will change to challenge, not at all easy to defeat, but not entirely unbeatable. 11 vehicles for 11 levels: the perfect number, neither excessive nor reduced to the bone to experience every game with the right balance between acceleration and braking. In fact, the solution will not always be to go at full speed, since the risk of overturning and exploding is around the corner (or rather, behind a dune). In fact, each level not only places us in front of one series of unpredictable obstacles and an irregular and dangerous route, but also at the risk of not arriving at the finish line in time because of the petrol that will run out along the way, thus determining a sort of countdown that will give us no respite.
Each level is a world of its own, with its own well-defined characteristics. At the beginning of each of these it is possible improve the statistics of your vehicle, but only after earning a few bunches of green bucks around the streets full of dangers, to make our racing car more powerful and snappy, whether it's a taxi or the classic hippie travel van on the road. To drive these vehicles we will have to learn some simple commands, divided and interchangeable between two combinations, even if in fact the variations are very minimal. There are also two variants of difficulty of the gameplay, "normal" and "difficult", which can be selected at the beginning of each challenge and greatly limiting the possibility of experiencing the various races in different modes. Adrenaline cannot be lacking for sure, but neither is the difficulty in trying to hardly control our vehicles.
Journey into the past between pixels and 8-bit music
These limitations, however, are accompanied by a considerable freedom, but which risks turning out to be a double-edged sword. Indeed another aspect of Hero Express is the ability to freely choose which level to tackle, without having to unlock one or the other on the map depending on the progress made so far. While this fact allows the player to roam freely from one panorama to another, however, the surprise effect soon ends and the taste of conquest that could be savored by unlocking the levels according to the points accumulated. A decision that certainly meets the player who wants to feel free to explore everything the game has to offer, but perhaps a little less captivating for those looking for a more traditional challenge.
On the other hand, by analyzing the stylistic code of Hero Express, his own jumps to the eye pixel art combining modernity and a visual and sound impact that takes us back at least two decades, if not even more. The visual spaces are filled with large geometric shapes, blocks of colors with few shades and tones and little else, in the name of simplicity, and although a greater level of detail would have been appreciable, the glance is pleasant.
La colonna sonora it is composed of simple songs, notes and sound effects that also know a little nostalgia and that accompany us during a journey made on a console of which many peculiarities are exploited, except the touch screen. Finally the version on tv screen it is no exception: it compares well with the smaller screen of the console and does not lose the response to the commands of our controller, nor does the image appear too grainy. A good point brought home by the team again this time.
- Lots of pixels and a great nostalgic atmosphere
- Freedom to explore the routes
- Easy to learn commands
- Little engagement and stimulus due to the freedom to roam for each level
- Sometimes excessive difficulty
- Few customization possibilities