iPhone Game Review: Pocket Heroes for iPhone/iPod Touch Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Pocket Heroes is an asynchronous, cooperative, turn-based, multiplayer-only role playing game. Yes, that's actually a category. If you have a group of friends to quest with, this game will provide hours of fun. If you prefer to quest alone, however, look elsewhere.
If you've got a persistent internet connection, at least 3 gaming friends with the same, and a love of cooperative multiplayer games, you're going to enjoy Pocket Heroes. After creating a free account, you can dive right in by either starting a game of your own, joining a friend's game, or accepting a random invitation. Aside from the 21st century multiplayer aspect, Pocket Heroes is a traditional old school RPG complete with stats, levels, skills, and loot. Combat is turn-based, and each turn is limited to a handful of moves. Once you have taken action, you send your move to your fellow party members, and wait. While this may sound tedious, it's not, thanks to the asynchronous game engine that allows you to go about your life while you wait for the game to notify you that it is once again, your turn.
These bite-sized chunks of questing work very well. That is, as long as you have a reliable group to quest with. There are no complicated boss battles to repeatedly wipe your party, and (thankfully) no grinding in order to level. They've left out the stressful and the boring, and packed the empty space with extra fun. Pocket Heroes is proudly billed as having "hand-crafted" levels to enable triggered events, etc. Unfortunately, the downside of this is that the game will be the same every time you play.
The developers are very receptive to feedback, and have recently released a large patch that squashed a number of bugs, and added some much needed features such as the ability to invite random party members. Unfortunately, there is still no way to replace unresponsive players so it remains to be seen if random invitations will be useful or not as there is no way to screen them for reliability. While Pocket Heroes offers a great cooperative experience, it does not offer a single player experience so if you prefer to game solo, you're out of luck. With an overabundance of single-player dungeon crawlers out there, however, I can't fault the developer for focusing on providing a singular multiplayer experience.
The graphics of Pocket Heroes are decidedly retro. For somebody like me who remembers what the early days of computer gaming were like, Pocket Heroes brings a nostalgic lump to my throat. However, if you're a younger gamer, hearing the words retro and graphics in the same sentence probably causes your eyes to involuntarily roll as you wonder what the attraction is. Rest assured, however, that Pocket Heroes does not overdo it, and the graphics are not amateurish in any way.
The sound effects and music, like the graphics, are retro in a big way. Unfortunately, I'm a bit less nostalgic of audio than I am of video, and I quickly scrambled for the mute buttons. Don't get me wrong; the sound is well-done. It's just not to my taste.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Pocket Heroes has, unfortunately, succumbed to the siren call of IAPs. For a price, gamers can purchase in-game gold and outfit their characters to the hilt. I'm not a fan of this type of IAP, and in every case would prefer that the asking price be higher and the drops more generous. However, I didn't find this particular implementation to be overly unbalanced, and the game can easily be played without IAPs.
Pocket Heroes has blazed a new trail with their asynchronous, cooperative multiplayer RPG experience. The lack of a single-player component is somewhat missed, but the multiplayer game engine works so well, and is so unique on the App Store that I can't bring myself to fault them for it. I can fault them, however, for the lack of random dungeons and drops. In my experience, hand-crafted is code for we want to sell you expansion packs.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Quaint and well-done retro graphics. Sound: - 3 - Not so quaint retro sound Controls: - 5 - A great little interface, that works well on the small screen of an iPhone. Gameplay: - 4.5 - There is nothing else like this on the App Store. If you like cooperative RPG and have people to play with, you should download this now. No single player component, however, will limit its appeal somewhat.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Make sure you have a balanced party. Healing may not be fun, but you won't get very far without every role filled. Know your role! If you're a glass cannon like the mage, don't close to melee range with your target. Find reliable friends to quest with. Getting halfway through a mission and having somebody flake off is infuriating to say the least.