Vertical Drop Heroes HD (VDH) is a remake of a flash game with the same name. Originally appearing on Kongregate about a year ago, it turned the traditional side scrolling platformer genre on its side. Instead of running left to right across a screen, players travelled each level from top to bottom. When developer Nerdook decided to move the game to Steam, he abandoned the original flash and upgraded to Gamemaker Studio. Which has produced a game that is similar, and yet very different from the initial incarnation.
One thing to note is that the developer is not a studio, but rather a single person working on the entire game. The art, writing, and coding were all done by Nerdook; which inevitably puts this title in the same company as Banished. Although that may be the only thing it has in common with the city building survival game.
This particular Rogue-like platformer has inevitably drawn comparisons to Rogue Legacy. A title that involves procedurally generated levels that are initially impossible to overcome. At least until the player is able to collect enough power-ups for future attempts to be more successful. The difference with Rogue Legacy is that VDH does not try too hard to tie the multiple generations of doomed heroes together. Those who enjoyed Rogue Legacy and its ilk will find this title extremely entertaining.
VDH is not exactly the most graphically impressive game ever made. Not that it needs high definition graphics, but the Gamemaker Studio engine behind it is very noticeable. Nerdook has a personal style that permeates his games, although it isn’t all that distinctive enough to give this game a unique atmosphere.
The various heroes themselves fall into the traditional chibi look with a giant head and tiny body. In fact, every NPC and monster also tends to fall into this particular look. It is not a bad thing, and it is a nice departure from the pixel graphics that have become a staple of this genre.
While the game doesn’t have the nicest of visuals, it does manage to hearken back to its Flash roots, and still retains the feel of playing the original browser version. Something about that makes it very easy to lose yourself in the simplicity of it all as you continually drop from platform to platform.
There appears to be an assumption that the owner of VDH will be in possession of a controller and using it to play the game. This assumption extends to the fact that the keyboard control scheme is a little unusual. It is supposedly set up for split screen multiplayer, although the Player 1 controls span the entire lower half of the keyboard. Changing the setup is always an option, although the default scheme indicates that the hot seat multiplayer wasn’t quite thought out.
The controls lack a certain amount of refinement, and dodging enemy attacks is a slightly imprecise art as it is difficult to control where you end up. The issue is made worse by the fact that there is no attack button. As a matter of fact, players can only trigger special abilities (which cannot be spammed); with normal attacks automatically occurring when the character gets close enough with to the enemy. Auto-attack can be turned off, but it is likely that player will not notice the option and simply assume that it is part of the game.
This is not an easy game to get through, and it requires a lot of patience to continually grind through the stages while building up the necessary resources to upgrade future heroes to the point where they are able to reach the end.
Players are presented with a simple choice during each game. Should they spend gold now to increase the power of the current hero at the expense of future runs? There is a balance to be struck, although new players will be likely to hoard gold to improve characters just to make it past the first few levels. Patience is the key to making it to the end.
The best part is that each stage is extremely short, and can be cleared in a couple of minutes. This makes each run quick, and actually nicely timed for those who don’t have much time to play games. It allows for a few minutes of running around and hoping to get as far as possible before you inevitably lose and head to spend that hard earn gold.
These few minutes can easily turn into a couple of hours as the traditional ‘one-more-game’ syndrome sets in. After all, it doesn’t take that long to run through; especially during the first few stages. This is compounded by the multiplayer feature that allows two people to co-operate to beat the game. In fact, this game would be much better when played with friends; many hours will be lost in this fashion.
VDH is decent game considering that it was made by only one person. It is not graphically impressive, nor is the gameplay anything groundbreaking; but it does provide an adequate mix of elements to be entertaining. Nerdook is quite obviously doing what he loves, and it shows in the games that he makes. For the players, it is a decent distraction for those who don’t have much time to play games but still want some semblance of progress. Fans of Rogue-like games should definitely look into VDH if they have enjoyed Rogue Legacy and Risk of Rain.