I love a good co-op experience, especially when it does something unique that really emphasises the need to WORK with each other as opposed to simply being together on your journey. Heave Ho, the new release from publisher Devolver Digital, certainly emphasises the need to work as a team, with its trapeze artist-like gameplay seeing players swinging each other around as they look to traverse across a series of peculiarly tricky levels.
It might sound pretty strange on paper (what else would you expect from Devolver Digital?), but it actually makes for an incredibly fun experience and one that’ll have you laughing your way through each difficulty you face whilst playing with friends.
The basic concept of Heave Ho is simple: you play as a little creature that only has arms, with the analogue stick control the momentum of the arms and the left and right shoulder buttons grabbing with their respective hands. By holding on to different surfaces, you’re able to swing your character around and increase their momentum as you leap across each of the game’s levels. It’s worth noting that none of these levels ever take themselves too seriously either, so there’ll be plenty of bizarre sights to see along the way – they all add to the charm of the experience though, so they’ll keep a smile on your face. Control-wise, everything’s easy to pick up, but it’ll take a bit of time before you master the precision of the momentum-based movement.
Heave Ho’s biggest selling point is the fact that you can play with up to three other players, with the extra pair of hands each one of them brings helping give you extra momentum to swing around with or even a makeshift platform to grab on to. It’s nice to know that someone might be there to grab you if you mistime a jump, but it’s also particularly funny if they miss and you watch yourself fall to your doom (and trust me, you’ll be doing a LOT of doom-falling during your time with Heave Ho). When playing in multiplayer, I’d definitely recommend playing on a TV rather that the Switch’s portable mode – whilst it’s a bit more bearable when there are just two of you, I found it difficult to keep up with the action on a smaller screen when I had three extra friends joining me on my swinging adventure… (I mean ‘swinging’ of the Heave Ho variety!!)
Levels start off fairly simple with basic platforms to make your way across with the occasional tricky jump thrown in for good measure, but it doesn’t take long for them to start to get a bit more complicated and send dangerous hazards your way. You can expect to face the likes of spikes, flipping platforms, electrified platforms, rolling boulders, or even just a long pitfall during your journey, and they will cause you to die a LOT – these deaths are met with a good splatter of blood too, so the game is pretty good at emphasising your failures.
It makes for a tough experience overall, with players expected to pull off pin-perfect acrobatic manoeuvres whilst co-ordinating with friends – it’s not an easy task at all and there’ll be plenty of moments where you’ll be tempted to tear your hair out with each failure you suffer. However, whilst this should be incredibly frustrating, the sheer zaniness of Heave Ho and the laughs you’re able to have at each other’s expense just makes the whole experience all the more endearing. So what if you messed up and dropped a chain of your friends to their death? You’re guaranteed to have some laughs because of it, and when you do finally succeed you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction and camaraderie that so few co-operative games offer these days. You’ll all slowly master the balance of momentum and precision as you progress too, so seeing yourself become experts at heave ho-ing makes the whole thing all the more enjoyable.
Players will be glad to know that they can tinker with their little protagonist’s appearance, with new costumes unlocked by collecting coins across levels. Some of these costumes are based upon other Devolver Digital titles too, so fans of the publisher will appreciate some of the costumes that show up. Costumes can be unlocked by completing the mini-games that show up during the adventure too, so if you see a golden rope hanging around you’ll want to make sure to grab it; not only to unlock said costume parts, but also because they offer a fun and creative twists on Heave Ho’s gameplay.
I spent most of my time playing Heave Ho in co-op, but it is possible to play it single player too. However, whilst it still offers a fun experience, it lacks that extra charm and excitement that playing with friends offers. It’s a bit more frustrating when you fail when there’s no one there to laugh at it with, whilst the fact you don’t have that extra helping hand can see some levels lose their sense of silly personality. Again, it’s definitely a viable way to experience Heave Ho if you have no choice but to play it alone, but it’s DEFINITELY an experience that’s better with friends.
Heave Ho is an utter delight to play, with its co-operative and outright zany take on being a trapeze artist making (kind of?) for a uniquely fun escapade. It’s a bit tough to recommend as a single player experience as it loses a lot of its charm when playing solo, so it’s definitely a case of ‘the more, the merrier’. If you can get some friends to join you though, you’re in for heck of a good time (and maybe the occasional argument if one of you gets slippery fingers…)
Developer: Le Cartel
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC