Monday, August 5, 2013

Hero’s Adventure (Terry Cavanagh, 2011/2013)

There are two great things about the recent popularity explosion of indie games. One is the ability to play some extremely weird and experimental games that would be too much of a gamble for a large studio. The other is that we can once again play games created by a single individual. Back in the early Atari 2600 days, games were generally created by one person. By the time the NES came around, it would sometimes take dozens. Having a large team certainly helps for creating a more in depth experience, allows for specialized skills to be utilized, and it certainly helps to get the thing out the door faster! Still, there's something magical about a piece of media created entirely by one individual. It's generally the standard in literature, but virtually unheard of in Film and Television. Thanks to recent technology, it's becoming more common in music and the occasional web series. And while it's taken a backseat for a while, it still shows up from time to time in the game industry.

I also mentioned that these games can be pretty weird, and with a team of one it's easier to get away with that since nobody has to convince anybody else that it's worth the risk. Sometimes it's an unproven gameplay mechanic, or an unusual art style. In the case of Hero's Adventure, it's a bit different...

Hero's Adventure is a game by Terry Cavanagh, most known for his games Super Hexagon and VVVVVV. It's a free game, available on multiple platforms. I most recently played the Ouya release, but it's probably most widely known for its online release at It's a short game that only takes a couple of minutes to play through, so if you wanted to follow the link and play through it before finishing the review, I wouldn't blame you.

Reviewing a game like Hero's Adventure is different than reviewing most games. I thought it was a great game, but it's difficult to explain what makes it great without giving away spoilers. At its core, Hero's Adventure is a satire of classic 8-bit JRPGs such as Dragon's Quest and Final Fantasy, but rather than simply offering a nostalgic romp through a pixelated forrest, you are instead presented with a more philosophical theme.

There are certain tropes of role playing games and of the fantasy genre in general that have been around so long that we simply take them for granted. Avid fantasy RPG players tend to think that if we were ever somehow put into one of these situations that we would know how to react. And, even though that reaction is much different than what we might do here in the real world, it would still be the correct action simply because of the setting and context. But, is it really?

One of the unique aspects of Hero's Adventure is that even though it presents itself in a typical fantasy style, it is very much set in a modern contemporary setting. When the game finally draws attention to this fact, the mood changes drastically, and you are left questioning your actions, not only in this game, but in almost every game you've ever played. What does it mean to be a hero? In real life, being a hero is much different than what is presented in most video games, and the actions considered heroic in most games would be seen in a drastically different light in reality. It's rare that a game makes you truly feel guilty about yourself, but Hero's Adventure manages this in a fantastic way. It's not even the trendy cop out of playing off the video game violence debate that is continuously shoved at us by the ratings starved media. Hero's Adventure looks beyond that, into a much more real aspect of society.

What's also notable about Hero's Adventure is that it was made for the Klik of the month Klub, an online event in which games are created over the course of two hours. Yes, two hours, meaning that this game was created in its entirety in less time than it takes to watch the cutscenes of some games. Again, it's a free game that only takes a couple of minutes to play through, so do yourself a favor and just go play it now.

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