Obscure fight for survival
When I first previewed the latest Trickster Arts game I was immediately captured by the dark Limbo-esque graphic style and its strong atmospheric soundtrack. What happens next is difficult to explain. In the depths of the ocean there's a dark world of frightening creatures and torturous caverns; the only hope, the only gleam of light, is you.
Hero of Many is an exploration adventure game in the vein of Aquaria and Waking Mars. You navigate mysterious deep waters in the search of light; but you don't know that yet. The introduction cutscene tells you about the struggle for survival of basic fish-like creatures. The black water-beings are terribly evil, oppressing a disperse resistance of white spermatozoid-looking followers. These are your guys. This is your team. Without any other direction, you go out and explore.
The lack of any other explanation of what's going on doesn't stop you from navigating the environment to find some clues. In a water-based world, your cell-like character follows your finger anywhere you tap on the screen. The movement is fluid and rewarding, allowing you to interact with objects like rocks and vegetation, which are subject to the same liquid physics.
As you navigate through narrow passages, these strange white creatures will be attracted to your light and will join your party. Before you know it, a swarm of friendly water-beings will follow your movements without much explanation. They will now obey — loosely — to your swipes, which will be useful to get everyone quickly through a narrow gap, welcome new members or hide from the evil dark.
Combat of numbers
The narration of the story is conducted solely by the soundtrack. Soothing ethereal melodies play as you discover new areas, changing to tense arrhythmic sounds when enemies are on sight. The terrifying sounds match the progression through the levels, adding drama to the inevitable combat sequences.
Encountering the enemy will always be a matter of numbers. The swarm of friendlies will attack their black counterparts automatically, getting more scared when outnumbered. Here is where the swipes will come in handy. The game makes sure you see scary creature silhouettes right from the start so you understand that your little whites are no contender for a bigger spiky sea beast. Escape is always a good option if things don't look pretty down there.
And it's not like you have control of your fishy followers either. Although they'll follow your trail and react to your screen swipes, they have live on their own — stupidly dying stuck on a narrow wall of spikes or drawing attention of a large group of enemies getting distracted with a single enemy unit left behind. Most times you feel like an outside observer of what these creatures do on their own loosely following your lead.
The core of the game is exploration and this is were you have the control. Navigating underwater labyrinths can get very repetitive, having the thought that you've seen something before. The adventure element comes when you try to complete a level — you can fly through the earlier ones if you want — inevitably missing some hidden white orbs and allies.
There are interactive elements like rocks blocking your path or acting as doors to secluded areas but there's no keys to collect or items to change the conditions of a different zone — at least in the part of the game I have explored. To remind you of the places you've been, there are some white markers on the walls brightening up as you swim past. Crystal formations act as a checkpoint, saving the game and loading the next level. The fluidity of the gameplay stumbles big time at these checkpoints, making it obvious the game is loading. Definitely something that could be polished as these saving slots may happen in the middle of a battle. It's not ideal either if you are stuck and keep reloading the same checkpoint after dying.
While I wish there was an explanation of what's going on, Hero of Many is all about the atmosphere created, dark silhouette style and the sound effects. The type of gameplay is also perfectly fitting for touchscreen devices, specially on the larger iPad screen. Hero of Many offers an immersive adventure leaving many things to your imagination, reducing the action elements to focus on the puzzles and strategy.