Need to know
What is it? A hands-off retro roguelike laden with mystery.
Expect to pay $15
Release March 4, 2021
Developer Four Quarters
Reviewed on Intel Core i7-4770K, Nvidia GeForce 3080, 16 GB RAM
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Loop Hero is the rehydrated essence of a dozen misremembered, ancient games. From the moment the 16-color title screen fades in alongside dramatic chiptunes, you feel like you’re playing some forgotten, VGA-era fantasy RPG, a game that still contains some of the mystery and difficulty of 1991, but gently modernized to 2021.
This isn’t nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. Loop Hero presents a novel and dead-simple gameplay format that’s strangely engrossing, considering much of your time playing it is hands-off.
You send one of three hero classes (Warrior, Rogue, Necromancer) on repeated expeditions to an empty road sitting in an otherwise blank void. As your little hero auto-walks around this stone path, you populate the rest of the world yourself by playing cards like graveyards, battlefields, villages, meadows, or mountains one by one. These environment pieces in turn alter hero or enemy stats like attack speed and HP, and spawn corresponding enemies that you fight automatically as you pass through them: ghosts, ratwolves, bandits, packs of spiders.
Back at base, the encyclopedia section sheds light on enemies’ abilities and what each card does. (Image credit: Devolver)
Loop Hero is the concentrated experience of watching numbers get bigger in a video game, but a grimly enchanting one at that.
It’s a style of game that has something in common with the so-called idle and clicker games that’ve emerged over the last few years, and 2012’s Half-Minute Hero. It’s a pleasant format, and maybe Loop Hero’s biggest point of success is that it makes a home in this middle zone between watching, planning, and acting. Supporting each moment is some excellent music and sound design—scraping slashes, a giant mosquito’s buzz, the unlubricated sound of a skeleton reanimating. I love the creepy little organ you hear every time you drop a Vampire Mansion into the level, one of Loop Hero’s tougher bad guys.
This is the sort of smart, focused resurrection of old games I want more of, something that feels old and new with every expedition step. I managed to put more than 40 hours into this quote-unquote small game.
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