Game Reviews

Sci-Fi Heroes

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| Sci-Fi Heroes
Sci-Fi Heroes
| Sci-Fi Heroes

Ellen Ripley, Luke Skywalker, Captain Kirk, John Connor. All sci-fi heroes of the highest order, and all morally unimpeachable.

If we were to liken Sci-Fi Heroes the game to an actual sci-fi hero, it would probably be the big gruff guy (Jayne) from Firefly, or maybe Han Solo before he stopped shooting first.

It's brash, amusing, and direct - and it's only really in it for the money.

Who's scruffy lookin'?

Sci-Fi Heroes is an extremely colourful action-strategy game that takes more than a few cues from Mika's Battleheart. It's got the same condensed action-RPG gameplay, the same side-scrolling beat-'em-up perspective - it even has a similar kind of comic-book art-style.

This means that you gradually form a team of four heroes, each subscribing to a sci-fi archetype. There's the gruff space marine with a death wish, a Jedi-like monk, and a gun-slinging space cowboy, to name but three.

They all have their own special attacks and strengths relating to attack power, range, and unique special abilities. Each member attacks when confronted by an enemy, and you have to deal with successive waves of these to complete a level.

You can move them around manually by dragging them into position, have them attack by dragging onto a specific enemy, or use any positive stat-buffing abilities by dragging onto a team-mate.

Laugh it up, fuzzball

So, yes, very much like Battleheart. Perhaps Sci-Fi Heroes's biggest strength, though, is its sense of humour.

In between these fairly samey (but slick) battles there are little narrated snippets introducing you to the characters, or brief exchanges between said characters. These are well written and really quite funny.

It's complemented by some nicely expressive artwork, with nicely differentiated character designs that are easy to pick out in the thick of a fight - except when a hulking baddy steps into the foreground, that is.

There's a price on my head

Sci-Fi Heroes's biggest problem is a rather familiar bone of contention among pocket gamers. It likes charging you for stuff.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with freemium per se, but Sci-Fi Heroes doesn't handle freemium in the right way. At all. Before I'd even reached the end of the first world - in fact, it was as I reached the tough mid-level boss - I realised I would need to pay out in order to toughen up my rag-tag band of sci-fi losers.

You see, while you can earn coins from winning battles, none of the weapons or armour found in the game's store can be bought with it. You have to use credits, which you can only obtain with real money.

Don't get excited

Okay, you can technically purchase credits with coins, but the exchange rate is awful - something like 1,000 coins to ten measly credits. That will barely buy you a peashooter.

The game didn't help when it gave me a load of free staff-shaped weapons for my efforts. Staffs, you see, can only be used by a character type that requires credits to unlock.

Then there's the third currency - fuel - which, once it runs out about six or seven missions in, can only be topped up with more expenditure or a frustrating wait for it to recharge. You need this fuel to unlock the next level, so you'll suddenly come to a grinding halt unless you pay up.

Of course, none of this would matter if it was fun to endlessly replay battles in pursuit of currency. It's fun to play once, but less so to play several times. To get through the game at your own pace, meanwhile, would probably cost you a double-digit chunk of your fortune.

It's such a shame, because much of the rest of the game - while rather lightweight and repetitive - is really polished and well executed. There's a buccaneer spirit lurking at the heart of Sci-Fi Heroes, but it really needs to come to its senses, Han Solo-style, and realise that money is not what a game should base its existence on.

Sci-Fi Heroes

Sci-Fi Heroes is an amusing and colourful action-RPG, but its overly severe freemium model strangles the life out of it
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.