Hero Survival is a top-down auto-shooter from indie studio PigeonDev which combines the dodging/shooting action genre made popular by Vampire Survivors with simple 16-bit visuals. This genre is exploding on mobile platforms but is just getting started on PSN. We previously reviewed Remedium: Sentinels which had a go at this sort of thing but slow and clumsy to play but that core auto-shooting gameplay still shone through, so what can Hero Survival bring to this particular party?
In this game you’ve got four stages to clear, each one divided up into ten waves. Clearing a stage takes a good amount of time, around twenty minutes or so, and, as expected, just involves you running around using the left stick while the game does the shooting for you, targeting whichever enemy is nearest to you at the time.
The enemies are classic horror characters such as werewolves, Frankenstein’s Monsters, ghosts, Jack O’Lanterns and so on but, aside from varying levels of durability, they just head towards you directly with a view to damaging you with contact. There are no ranged attacks to worry about but the screen does fill up pretty quickly with hundreds of enemies coming at you when the levels start heating up.
While the combat is pretty straightforward and simplistic, there are a few more things to think about. Levels are broken up into waves and these run on a timer. When the timer hits zero, the wave ends and you’re giving a choice of four items. These can be weapons or items and the come in traditional RPG-esque colours (white being common, gold being epic with green, blue, red and purple inbetween). There is a great range of weapons from pistols, rifles, explosive types and so on. All the usual archetypes. Of course certain weapons are way more useful than others with fast firing rifles being a lot more useful than short-ranged shotguns for example.
The items are bit odd though. They just give you boosts to certain stats while putting penalties on others. So you might get a ‘charm’ for example that gives you a bit of extra speed or damage but might reduce your crit chance or luck. To be honest, the items don’t really have much of an effect on anything so really you’re just hoping for better weapons. The whole thing around stats isn’t great to be honest. What exactly is Intellect? How does Greed actually work? None of it is explained and the effect of stat changes barely makes any difference.
Aside from the waves thing, you also get to level up also. Your EXP goes up when you kill things and when you hit the top of the bar, you’ll get a choice of three upgrades. Some are permanent (to that game only) and are related to one of three classes (you pick your class after levelling up once). These classes aren’t great either. There’s a Bomber class which is basically useless. A Gunslinger which sounds good on paper but reduced my chances of success every time I used it. The best is the Cryomancer class as that freezes enemies which does buy you a bit of time sometimes. It’s not brilliant but it’s the best of a poor bunch.
The other upgrades are temporary until you level up again and they’ll give you minor improvements to either Damage, Crits, Speed or Greed. They’re a little bit pointless to be honest although we did favour Greed once we’d beaten all four levels all that was left was a bit of a money grind to get the Platinum. That relates to what you can do between games. There are six classes in the game, so you need to save up your cash to buy the other five but, as you might now expect, really only one of these is good (the last one). Also, when you start a run you have to pick a starting weapon and these all have to be bought as well, which means you might need to do some grinding once you’ve beaten the game.
Speaking of which, beating the game is pretty tricky. There’s no permanent upgrading beyond buying a slightly better character to play as, so you’ll need to get good. The first level is actually pretty easy to get through but the second took some doing and really was only possible with the last character for us. It was a real sticking point because we then went on to beat levels three and four without any real trouble. Whatever level it is, you’ll really just be circling a big central mass of enemies while slightly kiting them. If you’ve ever played Brotato, which is up there with Vampire Survivors as the best of the genre so far, it’s a bit like trying to beat a wave when you’re slightly underpowered and so you’re just circling and kiting like you’re trying to out run wasps at a picnic.
So yes, that’s quite a bit of nagging from us there, but there was some enjoyment to be had from this game. We do love this genre and the speed of this one made it a bit more fun than Remedium: Sentinels was but it’s maybe a little less interesting. There’s definitely some skill required on this one, mainly dodging, and we were pretty happy whenever we beat a level so yeah, you can’t complain too much.
The retro style visuals are a bit chunky, with large black borders on the sprites, and the music is entirely overwhelmed by the shooting sound effects but generally the presentation on offer isn’t too bad. We’d have liked more information in some areas but it’s not anything game breaking and eventually you’ll figure everything out.
So that’s it really. It’s not the best example of the genre and, arguably, it should be better given that Vampire Survivors and Brotato have already shown how things should be done but Hero Survival is okay and if you’re a fan of this type of thing, it’s the best you’re going to get on PSN for now.
+ Actually good fun at times
+ Beating the game is quite rewarding
- Player isn't getting good information
- Middling presentation