You know what’s unfair? The lack of credit that standard enemies get in video games. How many times have you been caught off-guard and defeated by a goomba as Mario? Or how many times have one of the robotic bees taken you out in Green Hill Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog? Despite this, it’s always the ‘big baddies’ that get the credit and these goons remain fodder for heroes as they work through their journey.
UnderHero completely flips that concept on its head though, by having one of its goons leave the hero a bloody mess within the first few minutes of starting the game. Thus, a role-reversal takes place and the goon becomes the star of the show as he looks to reverse the (heroic) damage that the hero has done during his adventure. It sounds a bizarre concept, and believe me, it really is – it also just so happens to make for a unique gameplay experience that’s a whole lot of fun to play.
UnderHero’s story starts off in an intriguing way, with players taking control of your typical buffed-up RPG hero as he looks to vanquish an evil threat known as Mr Stitches. However, he is soon foiled by a lowly minion of said evil threat, who… uh… drops a chandelier on him. It’s an effective way to stop a video game hero, I suppose. Your role in the game flips and you then take control of the minion instead, who is given the task of returning three special artefacts to the bosses that the hero vanquished during his journey. However, with the hero’s old sword in your possession, you instead act for the side of both good and evil as you head out on an adventure of your own.
I don’t want to dive into too much detail about UnderHero’s story because it really is one of the highlights of the experience. It’s really well-written and full of genuinely funny characters, whilst all of the instances of fourth-wall breaking help give the adventure a lot more charm. I really enjoyed it, and whilst it is full to the brim with clichés, the game is so self-aware that it’s hard not to appreciate each and every one of them.
The main bulk of gameplay in UnderHero sees you exploring the kingdom through a myriad of platforming-fuelled environments, with typical platforming challenges aplenty and secrets to find as you progress through each area. There’s nothing overly difficult about these sections and anyone who has played through a platformer before should feel comfortable enough with everything that the game throws their way, though you will need to do a fair bit of exploration if you’re going to want to discover every secret that is hidden across the world.
My only complaint with exploration came with how large some of the areas actually were, whilst their labyrinth-like setup could make them a little tricky to navigate too. Fortunately, there are plenty of neat oddities to encounter across them so they never grow boring, whilst the enemies you face off against on the way always provide some entertaining showdowns.
UnderHero’s combat is one of the most unique features in the game, with it blending together turn-based style battling with an action-orientated twist. When in battle, players are able to string together combos of attack, each of which uses up stamina which is represented by an ever-charging bar on the battle menu. If the bar goes too low you’ll be unable to move, so you have to balance out your attacks carefully not to leave yourself unable to respond to enemy attacks.
Your defensive manoeuvres are important too, with the hero able to jump, crouch, and eventually use a shield to avoid enemy attacks. This made for one of my favourite aspects of the game – enemies give slight tells that indicate what kind of attack they’re going to send your way, so it’s up to you to respond quickly so you know whether you need to jump over a low attack or crouch under a high one. This can take a bit of practice and you’ll have to face enemies multiple times before you fully uncover the hints that indicate what attack they’re going to use, but when you finally figure them out it becomes very satisfying to evade them with ease. You’ll even see your stamina recharge if you hit a perfect evade on an enemy attack, which makes it easier for you to counter and dish out some hurt to your enemy’s health.
It all makes for a satisfying and entertaining combat system, whilst the fact that new mechanics are introduced as you progress ensures that it never grows boring. You can even talk to enemies during combat in order to grab new information from them, which is bizarre but somehow fits in with the weird nature of the game. Want to try escaping from your enemy? You can just bribe them with gold and have them leave you alone at the expense of some experience points. Again, it’s bizarre, but it’s all done in a brilliant way that just emphasises how much of a unique experience that UnderHero really is.
Between the exploration and battling, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had in UnderHero. To keep things extra silly and fun, players will also find themselves in all kinds of strange scenarios throughout the game, with ice-skating showdowns, inventive boss battles, and even quizzes on your adventure thrown into the mix to keep you on your toes. These are all fun little endeavours and I always appreciated it when the game threw these mini-games my way – they went a long way in helping to break up some of the longer platforming segments too, which ensured that players will never get bored when exploring the vibrant world.
UnderHero offers an enjoyable action-RPG/platforming hybrid that’s made a whole lot more fun thanks to all of the zany ideas it crams into the experience. Between its quirky showdowns with enemies, its fourth-wall breaking narrative, and all of its creative mini-games, there’s plenty on offer to keep gamers hooked in until the end.
Admittedly, some of the platforming levels could drag out a little longer than they needed to, but they don’t stop UnderHero from being an impressive indie gem that Switch owners will certainly want to take the time to check out.
Developer: Paper Castle Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC