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9  |  A Hero's Work Is Never Done...
Darryl B. , 4/16/2009 10:06:31 AM

As some of us old gamers have griped on message boards a bit here and there (if not at least once a week, ha ha), even though gaming consoles of today have much more power and memory than the systems we grew up with, there are STILL a lot of games out there that do not take advantage of a system as well as they should, which gameplay can be pitifully short, but hey, those cutscenes look pretty darn nice!

Feh. Cutscenes aren't enough to satisfy ME, sorry.

Unfortunately there are those out there who feel just the opposite, that these machines are the greatest things EVER, and us old fools don't know what we're talking about with our old, underpowered consoles, due to our misplaced, fading memories...to match with our misplaced dentures...not to mention Huggies.

So, if there's some young punks out there that think OUR games can't hold a candle to the newer consoles, lets see them check THIS out:

Roderick Hero, at your service. Please, call me R. Hero. Everyone does. I wish to address myself to fledgling Heroes and All-Around Good Guys everywhere. A crisis is afoot, affording me an ideal opportunity to share a few of the finer points of heroic endeavor with you. Do pay attention.

Volcanic activity has trapped miners in mineshafts in Mount Leone. I shall use equipment (some think it rather nifty) of my own invention to help miners no mere mortal can reach. It would give me great pleasure to have your help.

The object of this undertaking is to rescue all the miners possible before running out of lives.

H.E.R.O. cartridge, instructions shot - fatmanhero.JPG

Ok, maybe that silly manual intro isn't such a good idea to try to wow anybody with; besides, what matters is the GAMEPLAY (what a concept for the simplistic button-mashers!), stupid!

Like the intro says, miners are trapped, and you must go and save them, utilizing a "nifty" (yech) Prop-pack (which IS cool, unless you have a hi-top fade of a hairstyle, which that's going to be lopped off in a hurry), a helmet Microlaser Beam (think the X-Men's Cyclops, but no megababe girlfriend Jean Grey; bummer), dynamite (yay, ya get to blow stuff up!) and memory skills (MANDATORY!!).

Not impressed annoying kid: Heeeeey, where's the 3D polygon graphics?

Oh, go tell your mommy you have the mailman's eyes...look, kid, back then, game consoles' memory was measured in Ks, NOT megs. In it's infancy, movies had no sound, no color, really poor special effects, etc., get my drift? Besides, if you think you're such a badass at this wimpy game that weighed in at under 20K, then lets see you BEAT IT in, what, two hours then? (checks back after two hours) No? (two days) Still no? (two WEEKS?) No? Heck, they might not EVER beat the game...ok, well, it's not THAT hard, but I'm sure the unimpressed brat probably would've shut up well before then anyway...

The game starts off simple enough, and then builds from there: all you have to do is dynamite or laserbeam through a wall, drop down to the next screen, shoot a critter and walk up to your first miner, which you're given a bonus for any remaining dynamite and energy. Time is energy, and once you run out of it, you lose a life, so you must constantly be on the move.

Of course, the game doesn't STAY easy at all: the levels get bigger, there's several enemies that you must either shoot or avoid, like bats, spiders (that seem to mostly hang from mid-air, ha ha) and snakes, magma walls (just TOUCHING one is fatal), collapsing walls that will crush you, accidentally touching or shooting a lantern causes that section of the mine to black out (huh, was that brand of lantern made by the people who created the Ford Pinto?), you can accidentally blow yourself up if you're too close to the dynamite when it goes off, and more.

And of course, those are just the PHYSICAL parts that can kill you: the mental parts can take just as much a toll as well, since you might accidentally go down a wrong passageway to a dead end that you can't dynamite yourself through if the walls are too thick, and then you'll have to go back and try ANOTHER route. If you run out of dynamite, then you can laser your way through walls, but that takes a lot of time and energy.

Annoying kid: What, no cinematics?

Hey, you actually made it through a couple of levels...now you've got OVER FOURTEEN MORE TO GO! (Multiple levels was unheard of for a 2600 game, in case you're wondering; heck, most 2600 games didn't even have these things called "levels"!) So either beat the thing already if it's supposedly so (*#! simple and quit whining or I'll replace your beloved Dragonball Z collection with episodes of Leave it to Beaver for a week! (Ok, Beaver was a bit before MY time, even; I'm not that old...)

The graphics back then -- even though they *weren't* polygon (resists urge to smack kid with my cane) --were pretty good for the time, as were the sound effects, and the pace/difficulty build-up is very good: things gradually get faster, levels get bigger, and things get a lot more hairy once you've conquered several levels. You really got the bang for your buck for your 2600 with this one.

H.E.R.O. screenshot. The miner shows his apprecia - fatmanhero.jpg

Annoying kid (looking timid): The control on this is kind of...off.

Ok, I won't argue with that one: if you're lucky enough to find a copy of this nowadays for the 2600, use a Sega Genesis pad (which were programmed to work for the 2600) instead of a joystick, as it responds a little better, in my opinion. (However, H. E. R. O. was also included on the Activision Anthology for the Playstation 2, PC and Gameboy, so hopefully the controls are better on one or more of those platforms.) Unfortunately some later levels have passageways that are too narrow (and too long) to stay aloft in the air, so you must land on a raft that will transport you across, but you have to hold the joystick/pad in the up position for a couple of seconds before you can dismount, which doesn't respond a fair amount of time (the same goes for pulling DOWN on the joystick, which produces a lit stick of dynamite: a lot of times that doesn't respond either, which is a pain since you're trying to run clear before it explodes!). I think the control aspect would work a bit better nowadays with controllers that have a good 18 buttons (as opposed to the 2600's *one* button), where one button could be used for an instant dismount and another button for the dynamite, which would be good (which this is about THE only improvement this game needs, in my opinion, what with slightly better control in these situations, as the control is pretty decent for all the other aspects of the game).

H. E. R. O. (which stands for Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operations, by the way) has a lot of staying power, even though the only play variations involve starting out in later stages of the game...that, plus a random variation where all the levels, easy to pull-your-hair-out insane, are all jumbled together. So if you think you've mastered the game, try the random variation out for size (game number 5, which starts at level 17, then all the levels after that are random), that should humble ya pretty quick.

This game was ported around to pretty much every system available when it was released, such as the 2600, Colecovision, Commodore 64, etc., but even though it was a superb classic, it came out during the video game crash, so it didn't get the recognition that it deserved, even despite seriously heavy promotion.

And after we groan about some of the short-playing crap of nowadays (but not ALL of the newer games are like that, I'll admit), we also cringe at just the THOUGHT of some of our beloved classics occasionally being remade into 3D, which might offer some interesting new twists, power-ups, ideas and all, but they usually don't hold a candle to the original...well, personally I actually think this could make a decent 3D game. But of course, someone would probably screw it up, as per usual, so just leave it be, Activision, unless you have some really good ideas.

Annoying kid: Heeeeey, where's the two-player deathmatch?

All right, you've got me there, there isn't a variation for that.

Annoying kid: What, those weren't invented yet back then, just like the dinosaurs?

Har har. If a deathmatch is what you want, then you should know where to go for one of those types of games; this one actually takes your BRAIN to get through, unlike various button mashers.

And if you don't know where to look, *I* can think of a place I can tell you to go (i. e. think reeeeeeal warm)... :P 9/10

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