Have you dreamed of being the hero of your own epic adventure? Heroland is the place for you. Face epic monsters, explore the darkest of dungeons and carve your legend. Well, that’s on the pamphlet for this park at least. Pick up this game, and you can live out your dreams of being a tour guide!
Ok, so it’s not the conventional dream. But when members of the development team worked on Mother 3, what else would you expect? Developed by FuRyu, and published by XSeed Games, Heroland opens for business on the 31st January, for Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PC.
What sets Heroland apart is how its battles are fought. Simply put, you don’t fight, that’s all down to the guests. As a tour guide, it’s your role to give advice during a battle. If you think one guest should use a certain attack, or everyone needs to heal up, then you tell them.
It’s a unique mechanic which sounds boring, but works. Guests are well written and ooze charm, so when they fight, you want them to succeed. And at the end of a quest, the amount of XP you receive is determined by how happy your guests are.
Did you let them die, give them too much or too little advice, not share the loot? Then expect a poor rating. But keep your guests happy, and you’ll be rewarded with additional XP.
Whilst it’s a novel mechanic, it goes stale quickly. Regardless of who was in the group, I approached every battle with the same strategy and never struggled to win a fight, and guest happiness increases for every win, so even without trying, I was ending up with top marks.
Outside of combat, Heroland keeps things simple. There’s no overworld or exploration to be found. Instead, you click between areas of the theme park, and watch vignettes before proceeding to start a quest. The writing is wonderful, and all throughout the game, genuinely laugh out loud moments can be found.
However, the lack of freedom is disappointing and isn’t helped by the dungeon design. You just move from space to space, pressing ‘A’ to start the next fight or vignette. The most complex thing you’ll have to do is choose whether to take the top or bottom path but either way you’ll end up in the same place.
Heroland is a joy to look at, and it’s thanks to the beautiful sprite work throughout. As you can see from the screens, characters are 2D, but made up of 3D blocks to give them a bit of definition. This allows them to really pop from the background and gives the game a wonderful diorama feel.
This look is supported by the excellent animations. Nothing here is complicated, it’s simple effects and ever so sweet little touches (like a character’s head doubling in size while they shout at you) combined with the excellent dialogue.
Where Heroland does disappoint is outside the characters. Backgrounds are fine, they’ve got some nice lighting, but it’s never better than that. And you’ll be seeing these areas throughout the game a hell of a lot. So what only ever started off as fine, grows tired and old fast.
As with any RPG, you’ll be working your way through a lot of menus, and the UI in Heroland makes this easy. There’s nothing unique, or particularly interesting with the UI, but what is here works, is easy to read, and never got in the way of enjoying the game.
When you have a game as light-hearted as Heroland, you need a soundtrack to match. Fortunately, this is something FuRyu were more than aware of, and have hit the mark. Whimsical tunes play though out the game, and even where fights may get tense, they keep up the playful nature.
Unfortunately, there’s not much else to praise here. Whilst the tone is spot on, the songs and sounds just aren’t that memorable. For as much as I heard the same songs over and over, I couldn’t sing any of them back to you.
I was also let down by the speech in this game. Characters aren’t voiced, and instead, as with classic RPGs, talk in noises. I don’t have a problem with this direction itself, but, because of the sheer amount of dialogue in Heroland, hearing the same squeaks and garbles over and over again got very annoying.
I’ve already mentioned in my review that you’ll be seeing and hearing things often, and here’s why. Heroland is a long game, but it’s padded with forced grinding, and rinse and repeat gameplay.
During the game, you’ll meet and guide over 20 guests. Each guest has their own level and skill, but honestly, I didn’t see much of a difference outside the main character classes.
While going through the main game, missions will dictate that you have to bring certain characters on specific quests. Although they usually follow a particular story arc, every now and then, it will force you to use a guest you haven’t had to interact with for a while. This means going back and grinding to level that guest up, just so you can take on the quest.
I also found that the recommended level for the main story mission was typically 1 or 2 levels above where I was at, so you were continually pushed into repeating missions just to get some extra XP.
It’s a strange thing to complain that a game has too much content, but unfortunately for Heroland, that is the case. It’s charming and fun to play, but it just does nothing to change the experience whether you’re 1 hour in or 60 hours. As a result, it loses all the impact and enjoyment it started with.
Had Heroland just been refined more, it could’ve been great. As it stands, it’s an enjoyable game, just make sure you play it bursts every now and again, otherwise tedium will set it.
Ultimately, the basic system is fun, and it will put a smile or your face, so I award Heroland a Thumb Culture Silver Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.
This article was written by Rich Canning