HoL HoL HoLidays!
“Welcome. Dungeoneer, to the Castle of Confusion”
Knapsack at the ready? Helmet of Justice polished? Ready to Side-step left? Fortunately none of these are required, and there’s not a blue screen in sight. If like me you grew up watching classic TV programmes like Knightmare and the anomalous cartoon series Dungeons & Dragons, you probably also loved playing those early RPG games, Heroes of the Lance, Bards Tale and Dungeon Master. HoL – Heroes of Loot – from Orange Pixel/Abstraction Games sort of captures that mood. Let me explain…
Possibly because of its graphic style and sounds, or due to the fact we’re assaulting a randomly laid out dungeon floor, I can’t help feel drawn back to how I felt playing the classics on my Amiga. HoL somehow replicates the same feel even if it does it in a completely different way.
What ticks all the boxes for me is the random generation of every dungeon level in every playthrough, and the gorgeous pixel art. Heroes of Loot on the Vita wasn’t my first experience of the game, oh no. I’ve been a fan of Orange Pixel’s work since I discovered their games on Android. Yes that thing most of us have glued in our hands on a daily basis.
Orange Pixel have turned out some brilliant NON-IAP games on that format, and it’s a crying shame that HoL is only the second one to appear on the Vita (Gunslugs anyone?) What with Gunslugs 2, Space Grunts and the Spelunky-crushing Meganoid 2, lets cross everything in the hopes they might come to Vita in the near future!
Anyway back to our trouser-tightening dungeon romp. Your first playthrough will not only see you level up your chosen genre classic character class (Warrior, Elf, Wizard, Valkyrie) but also increase the difficulty of the dungeon. Whereas your character level resets with each play, the dungeon does not and will remain at whatever it got to on your best run. Levelling your character is a straightforward affair; just kill as many of the denizens that inhabit each floor and you will see clouds of blue XP orbs buzzing around your character [PRO TIP – when safe, stand still to allow them time to be absorbed]. Combat has been tweaked slightly from its original touch-only incarnation. We now have buttons and sticks! Any face button will attack, or you can choose to use the right stick to turn the game into a twin-stick shooter. [PRO TIP – Use the right stick when fighting in an open space, but use your face button of choice when fighting IN corridors, INTO corridors and FROM corridors. Auto targeting, you see.]
Apart from collecting that lovely full-fat loot, you can also pick up an area-effect time-limited attack. This ranges from a Lightning Rune to a Fire Rune. Each deals massive damage at close range to the player – when you grab one of these it’s balls to the wall time! The best method for quick room clearance: just pile into as many enemies before your Rune runs out while using the right stick in a whirling death blossom of destruction!
HoL definitely draws from the Rogue-like genre, in that once you get addicted to the game, it becomes about how many dungeon levels you can clear. My current best on Vita is 17. Once you die, it’s back to level 1 with a level 1 character. As you level your character, your main attack powers-up increasing its damage and spread, so trying to manage your health is paramount to surviving deeper and deeper. Fortunately you will find health hearts as you kill monsters and open chests, and if you’re lucky, as each dungeon floor will have a shop where you can spend your haul, you might just find a health potion or a sturdy shield (among other things) for sale.
Finally for even more content, every now and then you might find an additional room on a random floor, the Quest Room, denoted by a ‘?’ above the door. Here you will find the Dungeon Master giving you a timed quest for an item. This could be rescue 10 trapped villagers, or kill 5 Cyclops, for a Titanium Shield, or an XP potion etc…
Overall I cannot play HoL enough. I never tire of it. It’s a perfect blend of grinding and challenge, and so much nicer to play now it’s on the Vita. From its art style to the awesome music from the legend chip tune man himself, Gavin Harrison, Heroes of Loot is one not to miss. And speaking of that music, HoL took a slightly different approach as the main dungeon-crawling accompaniment is more of a 16bit traditional affair (awesome with headphones!), but the shops and quest rooms contain those genre defining ‘chip choons’ well all love from the 8bit era.
Heroes of Loot is the Gauntlet love-letter we’ve all been waiting for. Keep watch for those secret rooms! Now where did I put my Elven tights???
Northlander Rating – 9/10