There’s nothing like an adventure that stems from being wrongly (but also a little bit rightly) accused of the theft of an all-powerful gem, particularly when this adventure leads to the gathering of an old-fashioned posse to star in an upwards-scrolling RPG shooter with impressive style and an addictive charm.
Band of Bro...Oh I see What You Did There
A game whose tagline is ‘Might and Pillage’ can only denote a few possibilities as to its content: either we have a tremendously epic tower defense game involving the invasion of your kingdom/province/plot of terrain with a terrible defensive layout requiring impromptu defense of said terrain with towers by a group of savage Vikings or evil characters, or an adventure/RPG set in medieval times or pretty much any time of war in any century. Fortunately for us, neither of these assumptions are that accurate because Band of Heroes (aside from making me immediately think of the epic HBO miniseries Band of Brothers) is actually a delightfully upbeat, upwards-scrolling RPG shooter from the Russia-based Iriysoft. Blamed for the theft of a powerful gem that he didn’t actually commit because someone else just about beat him to it before he could get there, our main character is forced to run endlessly in an upwards direction being controlled by you. All he wants to do is get back the gem, and also stay alive for long enough to do so; perhaps a he needs to recruit a posse of allies in the process. He does? Oh, well the title makes perfect sense in that case.
Dramatic and explanatory cut-scenes aside, Band of Heroes thrusts you straight into the action, which runs at fairly fast pace and requires you to control your central character and your crew of ever-increasing size with the mouse or the keyboard, moving them in all directions around the screen as they constantly fire their own weapon of choice at a hoard of advancing enemies. The avoidance of a range of hazards and the slaying of the advancing foe with main and secondary attacks is pretty much the crux of the whole strategy in the game. Even though the gameplay can be boiled down to one clumsily-worded sentence however, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t flim-flamming, dag-nabbing brilliant.
The more you play and the further your progress in the game, the more heroes you will encounter and round up to be in your makeshift mini-army. You begin with handsome rogue Josh, but accumulate others such as ‘dark cleric’ Selena and arbalester Erica, each with their own particular attacks. Josh throws daggers and has a sword swipe as his secondary attack, for example, and Selena has her magical staff with secondary healing wave and ‘brotherhood of pain’ powers. Make sure to snap up all the items you possibly can along the way including gold, healing potions, and primary attack upgrades that usually result in greater numbers of projectiles being thrown with more even distribution across the screen. Upgrades to each character’s attributes are also available, allowing for features like increased HP and greater quantities of gold dropped by the enemies.
Don’t go expecting any high-calibre humour or elegant storytelling in the game, since it’s cheesier than a well-aged parmesan, but the whole thing works provided you remember to keep your tongue firmly in your cheek at all times. Picking up cash and spending it on upgrades allows you to derive some lasting entertainment from the game once you have unlocked most/all of the different characters, and being able to swap the members of your team around and choose a leader shakes things up a little as well. The visual style of the game is also a selling point, with a distinctly comic-book feel that only occasionally lets the limitations of flash seep through. One noticeable drawback is the game’s performance, which frequently slows down and becomes choppy at seemingly the most inopportune times, but this shouldn’t be a problem if you have even the most basic awareness of how a CPU works. Band of Heroes is a game from a genre that not everyone will have experienced, but which everyone will want to explore further once they have gotten their hands on this one.