Vertical Drop Heroes HD (Xbox One Review)
While Vertical Drop Heroes HD(VDHHD) has been available on Steam since July 2014, it’s finally making its way to the Xbox One. I was a big fan of the game when I first played it on PC, so I was keen to go hands on with the Xbox version before its launch.
VDHHD opens with some text about an ancient prophecy, and how every adventurer under the sun thinks that the prophecy is about them. It’s “the story and about the tragic and largely unnecessary deaths of the many heroes who thought they were the great hero of prophecy. It’s also the story about the one hero who did make it”. You won’t know if you’re the fabled hero of legend until you enter the dungeon itself.
The characters you control are as randomly generated as the levels they explore; plucking weaponry from a pool that, while limited at first, expands steadily as you play. There are pros and cons to every weapon unlocked during your adventures, from the Buckler, which slows you down and decreases your damage but allows you to block attacks from the front, to the Staff, which moves your focus away from bashing your enemies’ heads in with a weapon to annihilating scores of monsters with powerful spells. The usefulness of the staff is limited at the beginning of the game, as the spells you have immediate access to generally leave a lot to be desired. So for your first few runs, it’s advisable to stick with a longer range spear, a high risk/high reward axe, or a trusty, reliable sword. We’ll talk more about spells and abilities in a little bit.
The gameplay for VDHHD is very easy to pick up, and fun enough to keep you coming back for more. Every level is created using procedural generation, so no two runs are the same. I keep saying ‘runs’ because you’re going to die. Probably a lot. Vertical Drop is best described as a Platformer/RPG Hybrid with rogue-like gameplay elements. You guide your hero through the stage, hacking and slashing as you go, until you reach the bottom of the screen and, of course, you’re faced with a mighty boss. Victory over the boss allows you access to the next level, and there are 10 levels for you to fight your way through in a run.
It sounds easy enough, but it gets very difficult after a few levels, especially when you’re new to the game. You see, the abilities, weapons and stats of the characters you can choose from at the start are really limited, but you have the chance to broaden them as you play. You’ll find merchants dotted throughout your runs, who’ll sell you powerful new abilities and spells at a steadily increasing price. You’ll get your best stuff this way. Everything you buy will be added in to the pool of tools that the games character creator will pluck from every time it generates you a new character.
Of course, some abilities and spells will be better than others, and some will combine very nicely with weapons to make your character a true beast on the battlefield. It’s all about finding what works for you. In one run, you could be playing with a combination of the Reaver, a weapon that returns 3% of your maximum health with every kill, and the bloodthirsty train, that heals you for 1 HP every attack. During this play through, you’ll be charging your enemies down, fighting without fear and revelling in battle. In the next, however, you might wield a Staff, lowering your max HP, making it much easier for you to refill your powerful abilities, and combo it with Magic Blades. I’m not gonna tell you what this combo looks like, but it’s ridiculously fun. You should try everything you can, should you pick up Vertical Drop Heroes HD as there is so much variety in these combinations.
But not all runs succeed. In fact, most of them fail. But you can keep your precious gold between runs, allowing you to purchase more powerful unlocks the next time. Every time you play, you can get a little bit stronger, add a little more variety to your characters skill sets. It’s an incredibly simple concept, but the replay value of VDHHD is a huge draw. There might not ultimately be that much depth, but the content that the game does supply is engaging, encourages constant improvement, and is just generally a whole lot of fun.
The art style is cartoonish and loveable, and the music for each stage really helps to set the tone and help you concentrate. Top it all off with the fact that Vertical Drop Heroes HD is made by ONE MAN, an enormously talented dude named Nerdook (he also created Reverse Crawl, which you should probably check out), then you owe it to yourself to have a look.