Games like The Last of Us and Gone Home are often heralded for their powerful narrative and emotional storytelling, but what happens when you strip away the lines of verbal communication? It’s been proven to work before, as seen in the likes of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons or Journey, so it’s possible to deliver an emotional tale without using words at all.
Trickster Arts’ Hero of Many attempts to follow suit by offering a haunting underwater world to explore, with little handholding in the process. It’s not a hard game by any means, but what objects in the environment do, or how to solve a puzzle is often left for the player to decipher. There’s no dialogue, no written narrative, and yet everything plays out in one powerful, adventurous ride to the very end. It’s also gorgeous to look at.
“It can feel a little repetitive at times, but the pacing is fine and introduces new concepts at regular intervals to avoid BECOMING too samey…”
In its opening moments it’s revealed that the squiggly black tadpoles are at war with the equally squiggly white tadpoles, and things aren’t looking too hot for Team White. As the black ones overwhelm the white ones, we’re introduced the hero of the story; a tiny white egg.. thing. What you are is anyone’s guess, but you’re obviously important to those little guys. But why? That’s the mystery!
Gameplay is fairly basic, using the analog stick to glide your egg around maze-like corridors, collecting orbs and white tadpoles until you locate the level’s exit. It’s a little bit like Pikmin, as the tadpoles you collect will remain by your side, fighting to the death in order to ensure your survival. It can feel a little repetitive at times, but the pacing is fine and introduces new concepts at regular intervals to avoid becoming too samey; like knocking back large groups of enemies, or dashing through barricades.
Combat is left entirely to the A.I., but your little army will follow you around until they’re either picked off by the enemies, or get stuck in the terrain. Unfortunately the latter happens often in tight spaces, or during sharp turns, although going back for stragglers isn’t too much of a hassle. Another frustration I have is with the game’s save function, which activates upon touching crystal pillars found underwater. Approaching said crystal tends to freeze the game for a good 3-5 seconds, but you’re not always where you left off; as if the game is still playing behind the scenes. More often than not I wasn’t too far adrift, but there were a few instances where I lost my bearings. It was more an annoyance than anything, really.
Graphically, Hero of Many charts familiar territory for anyone who’s played Limbo or Badland. It’s black-on-color art style assists in creating an atmospheric world that’s beautifully adorned in silhouettes, giving a sense of uneasiness as I navigated its maze-like corridors in search of an exit. Plant life stretched and swayed, while menacing tentacles were always eager to snatch up a straggling tadpole. There was even a moment where I was swallowed whole by a massive sea creature, with subsequent levels actually taking place inside of its body.
“It’s just you, an atmospheric underwater world, and its peculiar inhabitants.”
Watching the trailer sold me on Hero of Many instantly, purely based on its visuals, but it did the game no justice. There’s no doubt that it looks fantastic, and it’s visuals definitely did a lot to set the mood, but the most surprising aspect was the soundtrack. It’s full of ambient sounds and orchestral bursts that perfectly complimented tense chase scenes, larger battles, and barren exploration segments. Everything just meshed well in the audio and visual department, and this is definitely one you’ll want to play with headphones on.
There isn’t much else to say about Hero of Many without ruining the air of mystery. The screenshots may be alluring, sure, but they do the game no justice. Gameplay isn’t anything groundbreaking and it can feel repetitive, but it’s a part of the journey as a whole. What are you? Why are you so important? There’s no high score to achieve, no leaderboards, no online multi-player, or even dialogue to filter through. It’s just you, an atmospheric underwater world, and its peculiar inhabitants. Take the plunge and discover it for yourself.
Recommended for fans of: The visual stylings of Limbo, Badland, or Grimind. Also fans of wordless storytelling, like Journey or Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.
*This review is based on the OUYA version of Hero of Many, which is also available on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android mobile devices. Unless we find significant differences between each version, consider this our definitive review.