Herodes – PS4 Review

Herodes is a 2D horizontally-scrolling shoot ’em up from Brazilian indie studio TecnoloGils.  It does the old bit of putting you into a microscopic ship and injecting you into a human who is suffering from some sort of deadly disease.  We’ve seen the concept before in games like Viva Ex Vivo and even some old shoot ’em ups in the ’80s and ’90s and, of course, you might remember films like Inner Space that riffed on the same idea.

The plot here is presented in static screens with text but there’s not a great story to be told here but, once you get started, you’ll get an initial level where you play through a simple starter level.  Complete that and you’ll get into the game’s main structure which is probably very different to what you’d expect.

Herodes has six levels, each of which is set in a different body part.  They’re listed in a reverse difficulty order (with the very tough ‘Brain’ stage up top and the easiest stage, ‘Kidney,’ at the bottom).  This causes some confusion initially as any of the six stages can be selected for play and they’re all really difficult initially.

So, yeah, you’ll want to pick the level at the bottom of the list and then just do what you can to beat it.  Once you’ve managed that, you’ll earn some in-game currency and that can be used to upgrade your firepower, speed and armour.  And you can just replay the first level over and over if you want to max out your ship in readiness for the later stages.

It’s all pretty unintuitive but once you get your head around it, the game makes more sense.  That said, we’re unsure as to why they went with this structure.  Why not just make it a linear arcade-style game?  Why all the faff?  And we’re never too sure about shoot ’em ups with permanent upgrades as ultimately it just means you’ll be grinding through the early stages until you’re maxed out and then at that point you discover what the true difficulty of the game is.   However, with Herodes once you upgrade a bit, the game becomes more playable and, therefore, more fun.

In terms of the game, everything is very low budget here.  From generic ship designs and enemy patterns to the low-resolution backdrops (none of which give a particular indication of what body part they’re supposedly set in and are lower-res than the ships), nothing here is set to impress.  The enemy patterns are definitely the most disappointing element with them arriving in waves that repeat often throughout the level you’re playing.  There’s no sense of design to it.  Just throwing ugly enemies at you in formations that don’t do anything of interest.

Boss battles tend to be more engaging though but that’s mainly because of their level of challenge.  You’ll need to learn their patterns and use all the tools at your disposal from the special weapons that are unlocked as you beat levels to the dash move that’ll help you get out of tight spaces.  However, all these options do lead to a slightly fussy control layout.  But that said, when you beat a boss, it’s quite rewarding.

Shoot ’em ups live and die by their weapon systems and Herodes doesn’t quite cut it.  Your primary weapon is a forward-firing machine gun (which sometimes turns into a better spread weapon but with no real indication as to why) and then you’ve got a series of special weapons which are limited use.  There are bombs that don’t really do anything but slow down the action, lasers that are reasonably helpful, a wave weapon which is useful for boss battles and some others too.  None of them are impressive visually, nor do they make you feel like they’re particularly devastating but they can cut some seconds off from a boss fight at least.

To the game’s credit, they do try to mix things up a bit.  The ‘Stomach’ level, for example, has you dodging walls in a way that felt very similar to the old arcade game Scramble.  However, that level in particular is pretty dark and hard to read (see screenshot below) and that makes a tricky level even more challenging but in a way that feels artificial.  It’s okay though and we were pretty happy to beat it eventually.

Aside from that, there’s not much else to report.  The game’s final level is a boss rush (yuck!) with a horrible teleporting boss that’s causing us serious issues and there are apparently different types of ending but, as with most things in the game, that’s not explained at all.  But whatever.

At it’s best, Herodes is a basic, but competent, shooter with a couple of interesting ideas but ones that don’t really improve the gameplay.  However, there’s no real sense of spectacle here, nor a sense of excitement.  This is just one of those indie games that exists and does a job but will certainly not live long in the memory.

5 Overall
+ the upgrading system does make the game more enjoyable
+ some of the boss battles are rewarding when you beat them
+ the game has some interesting ideas and a bit of variation
- very mediocre presentation
- uninteresting enemy patterns
- a bit grindy
- controls are fussy
- performance isn't amazing
Herodes is an indie shoot 'em up with a few interesting ideas but a game that is let down by mediocre design, unimpressive presentation and fairly weak gameplay. It does hold together though and so if you come with low expectations, you might get some enjoyment from it.

About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

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