It’s 8:08 am, the 8th of August, year 1988, and the nefarious Dr. H8 plans to eradic8 the earth with his 88 thermo-nuclear warheads! With the mightiest superheroes unavailable, who will come to liber8 the planet from this bleak f8?
88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition by Bitmat Bureau and Rising Star Games is a standard platformer with a twist: the objective is to infiltrate Dr. H8’s base with the help of the most silly 88 (along with 10 extra heroes in this Switch version) heroes ever conceived. Add in the fact that there are 88 levels in total, and that you are allotted only 88 seconds per level, 88 minutes in total for the whole campaign, and you might quickly find yourself either charmed or worn out by the way this brand of humor dictates certain gameplay elements.
The 98 heroes in total are what makes this game really shine however, all touting their own special abilities that allow for creative, wacky ways to clear a level. For example, MK Twice is a Miami police duo who boast twice as much firepower but simultaneously are also more prone to getting caught in each other’s crossfire and killing one another. Harley Trotter hurls a basketball at foes but is then left completely powerless until she manually chases after the ball and picks it back up again. Most of the flavor of the gameplay comes from learning what the next hopeless hero can do and then spectacularly failing from misusing an ability. In addition, this game loves its parodies and pop culture references, and features colorful characters from other indie titles such as Conga Master from Conga Master Party and Rusty from SteamWorld Dig. The voice acting especially is strong, and sells the eccentric personalities of the cast members and the little quips that they make amongst one another.
Unfortunately, if the humor doesn’t click for you, then what you are left with is a fairly basic, stale platformer. 88 Mode is the main story mode in which you are allotted 88 lives to clear 88 levels during a total of 88 minutes. There are automated guns and lasers to annihilate your hero on each level. Every time you die, you respawn as a randomly selected hero, which forces you to constantly adapt to new character abilities and playstyles. However since you are only given 88 seconds per level, you barely have any time to really scope out a level or even mess around with a hero’s ability. The first few hours of gameplay are admittedly fun and chaotic as you discover what each hero can do, but you soon realize that some characters are undoubtedly better than others, and once those valuable heroes perish in your playthrough, you’re kinda left with the truly useless ones, forcing you to restart most of the time. In addition, the levels themselves are designed in a very rudimentary manner by necessity, since they need to cater to numerous unique abilities, leading to the levels quickly seeming very dull and repetitive. This can make restarting a campaign even more annoying, as it can be quite tedious having to slog through all the samey levels again.
There are additional game modes, Solo and The Magnificent 8, which are simply slight variations of the 88 mode. Solo allows you to choose a single hero to complete the whole campaign, while The Magnificent 8 allows you a team of 8. This Switch release also comes with the H8 mode, which is basically just a set of 8 extra levels that provide a bit more challenge if you find yourself getting bored of the main storyline. Essentially there is little difference to separate these modes, meaning the gameplay itself doesn’t inherently carry much replay value. What will keep you coming back however is the music and the colorful cast of weirdo heroes and their charm conveyed through their superb voice work. In contrast, the enemies that dot the 88 levels are fairly uninspired and repetitive, again another result of the game’s need to cater to 98 unique abilities and playstyles.
Overall the main selling point of 88 Heroes: 98 Heroes Edition is its wacky cast of playable characters and its overall confident presentation. It’s a shame that the gameplay itself suffers from having to accommodate all these heroes and the 8 motif that comes along with them. If you don’t mind spending a few hours meeting several new faces and mindlessly fiddling around with crazy abilities, then this is a gr8 game for you.