Underhero is a unique game that rather humorously parodies some of the most known iconic and classic games. From early Sega style platformers like Sonic to very Nintendo-like RPGs, such as The Legend of Zelda series, it’s clear from the get-go where Underhero gets its inspiration.
The opening screen starts off by telling you that you’re the hero of a kingdom whose princess has been captured, just like every princess of the kingdom before her. Every single one! You enter the castle of the final boss where you bravely march forward towards your last encounter with the dark lord Mr. Stitches. Yes, you’ve come so far hero. You’ve collected the mighty McGuffins of power, maxed out all your stats, completed every fetch quest, escorted all the annoying upgrade merchants through dangerous lands they had no right being in. This all comes after you’ve listened to their hour-long explanation about how they now have the same upgrades they had before but at a slightly higher price, and presumably collected all the little statues of someone’s lost cat that they managed to drop everywhere around the kingdom. And so heroically you step forth, only to get crushed by a chandelier thanks to some random low-class minion who DIDN’T want to just stand there and let you kill them. Indeed the rest of the game is spent playing as said minion after they loot the hero’s magic talking sword.
The sword tries to convince you to become the new hero, defeat the bosses, and save the land from the evil Mr. Stitches. Of course, that doesn’t work so the sword also mentions you can get all of your Mr. Stitches’ treasure after you beat him (cause it’s clear that guy isn’t paying you enough). Oddly enough, when you are brought before Mr. Stitches to report the death of “The Hero”, he releases the princess and sends you on a secret mission to return the all-powerful “Triviality Stones” to the various world bosses, just in case another hero shows up. This all happens because you never know if another hero will show up to stop your nefarious plans at the last second. While exploring you can talk to many of the other evil minions to hear how much they like or dislike their jobs, get their opinions on what’s going on in the world around them, and get some useful tips as to what to expect in the next level. You can also pick up a surprising amount of world lore just by listening to gossip around the office. My personal favorite interaction was listening to the minions unionizing in the break room between levels. WE WANT OUR TACO TUESDAYS BACK!!!!
Throughout your journey, you can fight your fellow monsters to gain experience and level up to become a more powerful warrior… Or you can bribe your co-workers into NOT attacking you and as thanks, they’ll give you tips on how to complete the level, the location of secret items/rooms, or even give you some helpful items such as bonus potions or character upgrades.
If you DO decide you’d rather beat Jim from the mailroom to a pulp you’ll find yourself immersed in a simple yet rewarding time-based combat system jumping over and blocking enemy attacks and returning fire with your, very talkative, sword and your trusty slingshot, gaining bonus damage based on whether or not you timed the attack to the beat of the music. Quick insider tip: Invest in stamina in the early.
And that’s assuming you get into combat at all. While there are several “mandatory” combat encounters the levels of Underhero are designed with platforming in mind. Often times there are alternate routes to take around combat if there’s combat at all. Many locations have blocked paths that you need to solve a puzzle or get a key in order to unlock. Every time you run through an area there always seems to be one more nook or cranny to explore. All the while listening to a masterfully crafted soundtrack that, once again, is very reminiscent of those old-school 8-bit video games.
Sadly, no game is perfect. And while there weren’t many issues I had with this game the controls were definitely one of them. The platforming controls were stellar for the level design but for combat, it was definitely weird. It’s not that they were bad or too complicated but some of the keyboard controls were rather awkward and it took several fights of getting used to it before I stopped chugging health potions I would’ve rather saved. I swear my character must’ve secretly had a drinking problem, or perhaps it wasn’t so secret after all as “luckily” many monsters drop them like candy in the early levels. A refreshing change of pace to work in a place that enables bad habits rather than judge you for them. Of course, for players who find the keyboard controls a little too off-putting the game also supports controller functionality. Though the controller’s not much better, it’s far less likely your character will join mine at” Health Potions Anonymous”.
Another issue I had with this game was that there were a few areas where it got pretty laggy due to how much was going on on the screen, or just off it, at one time. And god forbid you to get in a fight in one of these places as the lag carries over to the combat as well. It was rather annoying when I swear I jumped over a low attack rather than straight into a high one. Maybe I was hitting those potions a little too hard.
Overall, Underhero is a wonderfully executed parody of classic video games, poking fun of them without losing what made them great. While the story can get a bit predictable in places its characters are charming and funny in a cheeky way. Moreover, despite the unusual control scheme, the unique combat system was fun and the platforming puzzles were both interesting and well designed. Underhero is definitely an excellent addition to your game library.