Back in the halcyon days of 16-bit RPGs, multiplayer gameplay only really existed when one player let his friend hold the controller while he went off to grab a snack.
While convenient to the primary player, this elementary form of multiplayer often left the secondary players feeling underutilised and frustrated.
Pocket Heroes evolves the genre by bringing asynchronous multiplayer to the realm of retro RPGs. While a far cry from MMORPGS like World of Warcraft, it delivers a surprising amount of fun in a tiny package.Old school meets new school
To begin with, Pocket Heroes isn't just a single-player game. Unless you're willing to juggle two or more iOS devices, you'll be unable to progress beyond your first turn without other active players (up to a party of four) in your group.
Additionally, Pocket Heroes doesn't support random player assignments, making the need for friends unavoidable. So your experience with the game will be quite limited unless you have one to three friends willing to play Pocket Heroes with you.
That said, the asynchronous turns are perfectly bite-sized and take little more than a few minutes (and that’s assuming you take your time to scroll around the map). If you're on the fence about whether to join a friend, the commitment isn't particularly onerous.
An average turn, for example, consists of moving and executing a set number of actions - like attacking or casting a spell. When you click 'end turn' you have to wait for your friends to take their turns before yours comes around again.
Turn based friendship
The only complaint with the short duration of the turns is that it can be difficult to remember where you left off. Fortunately, the game’s integrated messaging feature allows your friends to send along reminders to help prod you into action.
You can choose between four classes (Paladin, Mechie, Rogue, and Moon Priestess), each of which has a different focus between melee, agility, and magic. All are rendered in gorgeously pixellated 16-bit sprites, which help keep the aesthetic of the game firmly rooted in the old skool while minimising the size of the app itself.
Because all action unfurls through a simple tap-to-attack/zap/heal interface combat is hardly a pulse-pounding affair, but it works. Similarly, the storyline is a bit lacklustre (you are good, everyone else is evil, go get 'em!) but it fits the reductionist tone of the game.
Those looking for a captivating RPG from the 16-bit days would be better served downloading a single-player like Chrono Trigger, but those looking to share a bit of fun and silliness with the friends will find Pocket Heroes to be a near-perfect game experience that highlights the versatility of asynchronous, turn-based play in mobile gaming.