Orange Pixel recently claimed that it has long been their goal to build a rapid-fire random dungeon exploration title for iOS devices, making a renewed design attempt after each of their various pixel based releases. However – despite all the energy they poured into this endeavor – for most of the last three years the perfect gameplay setup for their vision continued to elude them, forcing them to always move on to greener pastures elsewhere. All of their unfortunate karma came to an abrupt halt back in January 2013 when the stars finally aligned and they at last saw the one truth path ahead of them, which has now culminated in their recent – IAP free – release of Heroes of Loot (out now, $1.99)!
In Heroes of Loot – which plays out like the lovechild of Gauntlet and a modern Roguelike – you first pick one of four heroes, then strive to hold out for as long as possible as you continue to delve ever deeper into the randomly generated loot filled abyss. To this end you have four different heroic adventurers to select from: the powerful Warrior, the quick elven Ranger, the fast learning Valkyrie, and the arcane wielding Wizard. Each of them – all of whom are equally greedy – comes with an inherently different base attack power, rate of fire, defense value, magical potential, and EXP acquisition speed.
Orange Pixel’s Heroes of Loot has – considering the needs of the iOS platform – wisely aimed for a simple control scheme: with a fire button on the right, and a drifting virtual joystick on the left. Your selected adventurer will continue to rapid fire toss weapons at the nearest monster that he/she is remotely facing so long as the attack button is held down, freeing up players to primarily focus on their movement. While many other iOS games featured drifting virtual controls that people commonly have found to be less than ideal, I am happy to report that I never experienced the slightest hitch in precisely controlling my movement within Heroes of Loot.
One might wonder why the title even needs an attack button when you’ll just spend the bulk of your gameplay holding it down, and to answer that I will need to explain the magic system. Whenever you collect a rune you will be able to rain down massive quantities of destruction based on a combination of your hero’s current level, and their inherent mana modifier. Now while a Wizard will obviously get far more bang from a lightning rune than a Warrior would, with either one of them you’re going to want to save that mana – which is also used via the attack button – for when you really need it. Speaking of which, I must say that – in particular – I am quite partial to the fire rune: which effectively turns your champion into a blazing pinwheel of death for as long as the button is held.
Using your ability to run circles around the opposition, as you blast them with both blade and spell, the primary two things you’ll be searching for are spheres of EXP and piles of shiny loot. The EXP spheres thankfully have been set to automatically magnetize themself to your champion, and thus you won’t need to do much else to collect them other than positively decimate everything around you. Once you’ve collected enough EXP – an amount determined by the hero you’re controlling – you will level up, resulting in both a visual and statistical increase in the potency of your weapon payload. For example: the warrior will eventually increase in skill to the point where he replaces his sword with giant glowing battleaxes, where as the elven ranger will eventually be able to uncork an unfathomable fury of blazing bolts.
The aforementioned shiny loots will either be found lying about on the ground, or dropped to the floor at random – where they will disappear after a few seconds – by the many foes you will endlessly send back to whence they came. This gold can then be spent at the singular shop located on each and every level of the dungeon, all of which contain precisely one – completely randomized – item offered for sale. Potential trinkets could include items needed to complete quests, shields that absorb a set amount of damage before breaking, scrolls that instantly jack up your EXP value, hearts that restore some health, a mysterious potion that causes your health to regenerate on its own, and much more.
Speaking of those quests, many floors of the dungeon will contain a room marked with a question mark where your hero can take on a challenge to complete a random number of tasks in a limited amount of time. The tasks demanded of your character – and the rewards offered should they be completed – are completely randomized as well, resulting sometimes in missions that are either overly easy or extremely cruel. Just remember to never rush forward too blindly when there’s only seconds left on the clock, for a living adventurer – sans reward – is always preferable to a permanently dead one.
As the player manages to delve ever deeper into the dungeons, they will eventually encounter events – played out via amusing little cut scenes – that permanently increase the difficulty of the dungeon on all later runs. This is actually useful as more enemies early on provides your champion with better opportunities to get powered up for the more dangerous obstacles found lurking about the dungeon’s deeper bowels. Since the means to get powered up – via either shops, hidden rooms, or quests – are completely randomized each time you play, the strategy one needs to employ will be different every time they start up Heroes of Loot.
Oh, did I perchance happen to mention that Heroes of Loot also features completely secret rooms for your little adventurers to potentially discover during their never ending quest for loot? Well, this is true, each level does contain a wall somewhere that you can step through – old school Final Fantasy style – to discover a chamber positively loaded with fortunes untold. Those who don’t want to spend their time walking into walls everywhere like an idiot can speed up their hidden room discovery rate by acquiring the Lens of Truth, a valuable treasure that will last until your demise.
All-in-all, Heroes of Loot has an awful lot to offer people who loved the top down shooter style of Roguelike action that has previously been seen in games such as The Binding of Isaac. Even though the layouts and rate of special treasure acquisition is completely randomized, that fact you’re always learning how to better progress will see you endlessly coming back for just one more try. In fact – thanks to the title’s impeccable control scheme – the only thing you’ll ever have trouble doing with Heroes of Loot is putting the game down, not that this is necessarily a bad thing. My only real gripe is that the title’s heavily compressed announcer – an obvious homage to the original Gauntlet – is generally drowned out the by the game’s music, meaning you’ll usually miss quips such as: “Your health is running low.”
So – in closing – I would like to wrap this review up by taking a moment to discuss the game’s art style, which is definitely just as pixelated as one might suspect from a company named Orange Pixel. Heroes of Loot – despite having an extremely minimalist presentation – has actually managed to incorporate a large number of tiny details, such as a champion’s weapon always being on the correct side when facing either right or left (many sprite based games don’t do this). Other than the blazing pinwheel of death effect – which I mentioned earlier – another nice detail is that the heroes can be seen carrying around each floor’s massive key, strapped to their back, until they use it. Far too many other titles have employed the extremely minimalist pixel style as an excuse to justify having fewer visual details, so it’s nice to see that Orange Pixel has taken the artistic highroad in regards to Heroes of Loot.
iFanzine Verdict: Orange Pixel’s Heroes of Loot is a well crafted mixture of Gauntlet and Roguelike gameplay sensibilities, all coupled with a rather detailed minimalist pixel art presentation. Even though the levels and ability acquisition opportunities are completely randomized, the game features a highly addictive quality that will always leave you coming back for more. This is especially aided by your progress permanently increasing the dungeon’s starting difficulty, eliminating the ‘early boring segment’ effect that many other similar titles suffer from. Add in the fact that you’ll never be harassed by IAPs ever, in a title that can furthermore be had for the low-low price of $1.99, and you have what is easily an ultimate contender amongst top-down action Roguelikes on the iOS marketplace.