Steam Cleaning #8: Underhero

Underhero, the game I almost quit… twice. And yet, the game that kept me coming back to see what came next.

I came into this game with low expectations. The platforming felt floaty and uncoordinated, and the text intro and animation for the prologue could have used some polish. Just some indie game, right? I figured I’d give it an hour, as is my custom.

The game story was funny and interesting from the get-go, charming and unique. Even in the first five minutes the plot jumped off the rails, and my interest was piqued. Maybe this would be worth a play after all.

Then I got to the combat. It was unique and fun! The way the battle system works is a mashup of turn-based games, action fighters, and rhythm games. This battle system shines in a lot of ways. It allows the player to chat up or bribe enemies instead of just beating them down. The weapons can be upgraded in various ways, each one works differently, and there are parry and dodge mechanics that involve memorizing enemy attack patterns. Pulling off dodges and mastering an enemy type feels great!

It’s not all roses even here, though. The enemy variety ranges from good to just mediocre, and while the enemies do have animations that tell you how they will attack, the timing of those attacks is left to feel and memorization instead of animation. I found myself counting the seconds between ‘tell’ and attack to try and guess when I should parry or dodge. Then there are the bosses, each of which breaks the combat system in a different way to do something new and different. Some of these work great! Some don’t work as well.

One of the bosses nearly broke me, simply because I didn’t understand the enemy’s tells. I found the method needed to damage the boss frustrating (I was doing it wrong). Once I saw my mistake, I shouldered on, certain I was near the end of the game anyway.

And I was. I only had one ‘world’ left to go. That world had basically no combat, and was full of mazes and that same floaty platforming. I almost quit again, mid world. I had had enough of hallways, switches, and platforming segments that felt more like padding for the game completion time than anything else.

Eventually I pushed through, and I was so glad I did! The final battle blew my mind a bit, in a way few games manage. I wish the plot twists had felt a little more earned, but the message behind them was awesome, and the execution was stellar.

The game concept was, from the beginning, good, and the way it plays with the ‘Hero’s Story’ is a bit different than any other twist I’ve read up on. The humor was charming and memorable, almost enough to carry the game on its own, combat was mostly great, and well… the platforming was functional and precise enough for what it asked of me. I’ve played through worse.

All in all, Underhero is very much worth a play.

Verdict: 9.5 hours played, game complete.

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