Retro-style pixelation is a tricky commodity to master. Pull it off well in a game and players can bask in warm, fuzzy nostalgia or (for the young'uns) simply enjoy an artful use of the form. If you don't integrate it well, players might just wonder why the style choice was made in the first place. 8Bit Hero unfortunately leans toward the less desirable end of this scale.
8Bit Hero is not entirely pixelated, but makes the choice of placing 2D pixelated characters in a 3D-constructed space. While the brain might experience a brief moment of trippiness at first glance, it quickly becomes a feasible look. Think Paper Mario with its "cutout" style.
Moving around the world in this dungeon crawl-ish adventure works well in most places, although there is a baffling lack of D-pad implementation on the GamePad or Pro Controller. Only the analogue stick is usable on these devices. The controls are not fine-tuned enough to make analogue a big advantage, and one would assume a more retro style would be reason enough to provide a more traditional mode of control. Additional players can join in using Wii Remotes if they want the digital experience, but poor player one will always be stuck on the GamePad no matter what.
Slashing through 8Bit Hero has a slight Legend of Zelda vibe to it, albeit a more straightforward and arcade-like one. Much of the quest is point-A-to-point-B trekking through different stages, poking things to death with a sword and picking up a few other usable items along the way. It's basic combat and nothing particularly stands out about it.
Up to five players can join in simultaneously. Each is given a base 5 lives to start and, based on the difficulty, anywhere from 3 to an infinite number of continues are provided to finish the game. If all players lose their life in a section of the stage they will start back at the beginning of that section. It feels pretty pointless, though, because if you've been systematically slaughtering the baddies like a good hero, you'll be walking a path of nothingness until you get back to the point where you gave up the 1up. Lose all your lives in a stage and a continue will start you back at its beginning.
Losing lives can be quite easy to do, as heroes start with short life meters and not much invincibility between hits. The game seems to counteract this by offering lives for a relatively cheap sum in its interstage shop, but this seems a rather cheap way to mitigate things. Sometimes, however, especially in single player, it feels like the first attempt through a stage is only going to be good for gathering enough gems to spam a bunch of lives for your next run.
Also, one big warning about multiplayer and losing lives: keys gathered are assigned only to the player who collects them. So if your friend collects a key and falls down a hole to lose their last life? Tough. That locked door that's likely your only way forward is locked for good and you'll have to restart.
The soundtrack here is, naturally, chiptunes. It can be repetitive at times but still matches the world rather well. There's a story here, too. Kind of. Something about an evil queen and her evil posse. It plays out in some cutscenes, but isn't going to serve as much motivation for proceeding.
8Bit Hero is a workable game on a technical level, with only a few control and rule choices holding it back. What may be the bigger problem for it, though, is finding the spark in it that gets one to keep playing. It's not likely to be found in the generic-looking characters of its pixelated gimmick, nor in the basic combat or barely-there story. Those looking for a low-key multiplayer adventure might dig it, but 8Bit Heroes could really stand to flesh itself out more to live up to its potential.