If you're a game developer, and your plan is to make gamers bang their head against a wall replaying the same missions over and over again, they better be damn good. Deadbeat Heroes is an example of how to do this the wrong way. It's a game that's constantly at odds with itself. There is a strong focus on forcing the player to replay and perfect missions. But those same missions don't have niceties that should be in place if they're intended to be repeated, making every attempt at them grueling.
To start from the beginning, Deadbeat Heroes is a simple brawler. You belong to a small team of English crime fighters who are up against some formidable baddies. The comic book art style is cool and fitting for the plot, and the tone of conversation is light and fluffy. The controls are straightforward with everything essentially being a spin on punching: dash punches, uppercuts, dive hits and things of that nature. The combat is designed for players to quickly bounce from enemy to enemy, attempting to execute a smooth combo. Eventually, you'll be introduced to different types of super villains. When you defeat these villains during a level, you can use their superpower for a short time. This is as advanced as the gameplay gets with the rest of the learning curve being perfecting your skills, and it can be satisfying and fun to create a higher-level combo.
The first few levels start off easy enough, but the difficulty soon ramps up when the game introduces you to a couple things. First, you have to meet the requirement of the game's scoring system to pass a level. Not to mention, failure will result in a steep punishment: dying during any level will result in a score being removed from a previous level, meaning you must replay both the level you just failed and the level you beat prior to it. Worst of all, when you're trying to get a better score, there's always the chance you might die. It's not fun to sacrifice your score on a past level because you suck at a completely different level. Between needing to redo levels to meet the target score and replaying past levels after failing new ones, much of your playtime is spent retracing your steps. Those struggling with the game will be infuriated watching their hard-earned scores go away on earlier levels because they've encountered a tough new level. It makes sense to make a player redo a level they've failed, but to take away their previous accomplishments is just cold.
Missions involve going room to room and clearing out bad guys. You can't leave until you've defeated every enemy in a room, and waves of them will continually drop down for you to fight. Health and rewards are only dropped at the end of the room. Your character can only take a few punches, and there aren't any options for health regeneration except a health pickup dropped after beating a room, so this is a lot trickier than it sounds. There are no checkpoints, and any deaths will have you replaying the level from square one. After a while, you begin to unlock more heroes, which serve as lives. Lives are then buffers between you and and losing scores on previous levels; if you have four lives, you can die four times before a past score is removed. You'll have to spread the lives between three levels per chapter and a boss fight. With no checkpoints, it's still punishing regardless of your hero situation.
Even worse is that the game itself wasn't designed with replaying in mind. Deadbeat Heroes has a lot of quirks. For example, every time you beat a mission, it resets you all the way back to the main menu. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense considering there is a hub world where all the missions are. After every level, you'll be going back to the main menu, loading your game and then selecting a level. Ideally, it should send you back to the hub world, or what's the point of the hub world? On top of this, any dialogue must reoccur. There are options to speed it up, but you still have to go through the motions. Within levels — even if you've already played the level 10 times — all the level intros and enemy introductions that occur when you meet a "new" enemy are replayed every time. It'd be easier to forgive the emphasis on redoing levels if it wasn't such a chore thanks to all of the above.
Depending on your proficiency with the game, the flaws with the level passing system might go unnoticed throughout the early and middle levels (emphasis on "might" — you'll notice them). It really starts to rear its ugly head during the last few sets of missions, which are just mean. As mentioned earlier, your character can only take a few hits before going down, which will result in the full level needing to be replayed. There are never any health bar upgrades, so the amount of hits your character can take during the first level and last level are identical, but the difficulty multiplies exponentially as the game goes on. Your heroes will fight against seemingly endless waves of the game's toughest enemies. For some reason, the developers also thought it pertinent to add ruthless environmental obstacles during these battles. At one point, you'll be fighting a room full of the nastiest bad guys all while homing missiles are locked onto you. Lives don't help because you have to restart missions from square one upon death regardless.
There are other small details that stand out among the more obvious ones. One is that in a game so keen on players meeting required scores, the scoring system is never explained. Is it entirely based on points? Is time a factor? What score gets a C versus a B? It's not even clear what is the highest score and what is the lowest score; during the review, nothing higher than a B or lower than a D was earned. It's anybody's guess.
Can't we talk this out, gentlemen?
To earn all 1,000 gamerscore in Deadbeat Heroes, you must beat the game. That's it. Everything is story-related and will be unlocked along the way. At least 700 or 800 gamerscore can be obtained without too much hassle, but the last sets of levels are a whole lot more difficult than those that come before it. As of this writing, one gamer on the site has completed it.
SummaryDeadbeat Heroes is an average game that is made far worse by poor design choices. At a quick glance, it's a simple brawler with a neat comic book art style that doesn't take itself too seriously. Upon further inspection, it's a frustrating game that encourages — no, forces — replaying missions with its minimum score requirements and strict punishments for failure, but it's excruciating to do so because dialogue, level intros and enemy introductions can't be skipped. Despite the emphasis on reaching target scores, the mysterious scoring system is never explained. Replaying levels isn't as bad in the early levels of the game when failure isn't as prominent, but the unfairness of the later levels may have players stuck in a painful cycle of dying and having their hard-earned scores wiped because of it. Do yourself a favor and leave this comic book on the rack.
- Cool comic book art style
- Stringing together big combos can be satisfying and fun
- Failing a mission results in being forced to redo both that mission and the mission prior
- Can't skip mission intros, enemy intros or dialogue sections
- Later levels feel stupidly unfair
- Scoring system isn't explained
- Sends you back to the title screen after every misson
EthicsThe reviewer spent five hours punching enemies in many different ways, earning 12 achievements for 800 gamerscore. An Xbox One code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of the review.
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