Review: Hero Core

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Even now I find myself surprised at how engrossing the simplest games can be. Despite all the advances in graphics and gameplay made over the decades, I can still burn an entire evening on a monochromatic pixel shooter if the concept is solid enough. Hero Core is indeed solid enough for just that, offering an entire space station of robots to wreck and powers to procure. I honestly intended to just give it a quick look but an hour later I had 100%ed the game and was scrolling through the bonus menu for more.

You are Flip Hunter, futuristic robot-smasher extraordinare, on the trail of your long-time nemesis Tetron. The machine warlord has assembled a mechanical base to serve as a launching point for an assault on Earth, and it’s up to you to stop him. Within the base are all manner of mechanical fighters to impede your progress, as well as hazards like crushing walls and scalding liquids. Fortunately there are plenty of upgrades to locate that grant you more firepower, new weapons, hazard protection, and other abilities. Ultimately you’re working up to a final showdown with Tetron, but secret computer terminals throughout the base can reveal details about your conflict that change the complexion of your victory.

There’s a lot to unpack there, especially for such a modest indie title, but they’re all features of a quality metroidvania. The station is divided into ten sections, each with a different theme and somewhat different threats. Some of the passages will be blocked by pipes or force fields that you’ll need to pass, either by locating a new power or destroying the section’s power core. Most upgrades are not completely essential to progressing, however, and it’s at least possible to challenge and defeat Tetron right from the get-go. However, you’d be missing out on the surprisingly deep story by not locating the ten computer terminals that provide background on you, your foe, and your world. You get some clever powers, too, like a reverse warp to locations you haven’t found.

The enemies populating the base are quite varied as well, ranging from flashing spheres and modest robots to enormous bio-mechanical monstrosities. Their patterns can be quite challenging and there are more than a few rooms where all foes must be vanquished before proceeding. It’s the monochromatic presentation and excellent soundtrack that make these battles so engrossing, along with the tight controls and intelligent map design. Really there’s nothing to hold against Hero Core, except that I’m itching for more after my engrossing hour with it. The bonus menu and new difficulties will keep you busy for a bit but I’m more interested in digging deeper into Daniel Remar’s games and seeing what additional brilliance lies there.

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