Originally released on smartphones back in 2015, Heroki is an example of a game where a mobile-to-Switch port really does make sense. A happy, colourful hero flies around in a happy, colourful world, all inside an adventure that sits somewhere between Yoshi’s Woolly World and indie hit Owlboy on the gameplay spectrum. It has just about enough meat on its bones to justify a port, too, so is it worth your time?
Well, let us start by explaining that comparison to Yoshi and Owlboy. As you can probably tell from the game’s screenshots, our protagonist, Heroki, flies around each of the game’s levels with a simple, one-stick control scheme. It essentially plays like a platformer without the platforms; Heroki must reach an end goal, knock out enemies along the way, pick up collectables, and work out the occasional small puzzle to boot.
The levels themselves are an incredibly relaxed affair, however, and there’s an emphasis given to exploring and taking your time rather than rushing to the end at breakneck speed. Each level contains a total of 12 items to collect for that juicy 100% completion, from treasure chests to 3D letters that form Heroki’s name (think Donkey Kong), and the enemies hardly ever present any real threat. It’s a very peaceful adventure, and one that will reward those looking for something easy-going.
The graphical style and music complement this idea rather well, never intruding by becoming the main focus for either positive - or negative - reasons. The visuals are clean and crisp, while never breathtaking, and the music safely plods along to keep things upbeat and happy while never going as far as getting stuck in your head. For better or worse, you’ll likely forget about these factors after a short while, instead putting all of your focus into flying around and grabbing every last item.
Back to the gameplay itself, Heroki can also make use of some extra abilities as he glides around each stage. From the start, you’ll be able to use the ‘Y’ button to pick up objects, which can then be carried around as you fly. When you’re near an enemy you can press the same button again to bring up an arrow-shaped reticle (just like Yoshi) which can be moved around to aim and throw your object at the opponent. If you’re lucky, box-shaped items can also contain heart and shield benefits, boosting your health should you take a couple of knocks along the way.
Extra abilities are unlocked over time, too, with the completion of each world granting you with a new power. These are a little more special, though, and are often used throughout the next world to complete puzzles. While seeming great on paper, we actually found that these sometimes had a negative impact on the game’s pacing; the first skill unlock – the power of wind – can be used to blow away leaves that obscure the screen, but having to do this same trick over and over in each level quickly becomes quite tiresome.
And this leads us on to our main issue with Heroki: the constant feeling of “oh, we’re doing this again”. The gameplay itself is enjoyable, and gliding around to discover each level’s secrets is a lovely way to spend your time – for a while. Once you’re five or six levels into one gaming session, you’ll start to feel like you’ve probably had enough, as each level plays out in an almost identical way to the last.
There are some exceptions to this, such as when you first come across a new puzzle type, but these exciting moments are a little bit too few and far between. Heroki has some great ideas, and could be a really lovely little puzzle adventure if these were to be expanded on; the foundations in place are great – it just needs that extra little burst of magic to help it truly soar.
The game does have a story attached to it, too, with your typical evil-doer stealing a humble town’s prized possession to do some bad stuff, but this takes a backseat after the opening cutscene. What it does allow, however, is for a small town area full of non-playable characters to be accessible, providing the occasional side quest and some people to talk to. It’s not quite Skyrim, but it can help to alleviate those feelings of boredom from playing too much of the main game in one go, and seeing your own home grow through picking up in-level collectables is a nice touch.
This is actually where Heroki stops feeling like a mobile game and more of a dedicated gaming system adventure. If your only concern is to whizz through each of the main levels to tick them off on the main menu, you’ll reach the end pretty quickly, but taking the time to grab everything, talk to everyone, and help out the townsfolk will obviously extend your playtime and, ultimately, your enjoyment.
Heroki is a bright and calming adventure game that can provide a simple level of entertainment for players of all skill levels and abilities, but never quite pushes itself far enough to be the experience it could have been. It ticks all of the boxes and gets the job done, with easy-to-understand controls, addictive collectable-grabbing gameplay - and even a nice little side quest area - but never breaks out of those metaphorical boxes to give us something that can truly amaze. A nice little game on the whole, then, just a little on the simple side.