Finally, a game that dares to be as heroic as the title implies. Band of heroes brings some comic-book style and distinctly non-flash visuals to the scrolling shooter genre, charging you with the task of avoiding obstacles and enemies whilst building your team and applying weapons upgrades to assist your progress. It’s a challenging yet highly playable title that all stems from the failed attempted theft of a mystical and magical gem. The best ones always start with almost-crimes.
I usually try and reserve the act of scrolling for written documents, high-resolution images in Photoshop, or checking Facebook on a much-too-frequent basis. If scrolling is to be done in a video game, then I usually prefer it to be the horizontal kind and from left to right because that’s just what I’m used to as a member of literate western society. What happens when a game makes use of the vertical axis then? It takes me right out of my gaming comfort zone, is what, with the downward scrolling of House of Dead Ninjas taking me by surprise, Falldown being just too much for me to take. The upwards scrolling of Band of Heroes’ gameplay, therefore, had me a little miffed at first, but it is a credit to the game that it kept me interested, and eventually had me eating vertical axis for breakfast, though I recommend having them with a splash of milks since mathematical concepts are a tad dry.
As you may have gathered from the above nonsense, Band of Heroes is a game from Iriysoft, a Russia-based development company that enjoys a vertical journey as much as the next man, woman, or dagger-throwing Arbalester. The game concentrates on the encountering of enemies as the screen scrolls upwards, with the emphasis being on avoiding their attack whilst your character constantly fires their own preferred projectile unendingly. The idea is to accumulate a team along the way, usually by meeting a willing collaborator at the end of each of the beginning stages where you can also upgrade your team’s various abilities. You must avoid the enemies themselves as well as their attacks and other environmental obstacles such as laser towers and meteors that fly down from the sky. It’s all controlled with either your mouse or (in my opinion) more easily with the directional arrows for movement and the spacebar for your character’s special attack.
Why should you keep on playing the game past the first few levels you say? Well, because of the upgrades of course. A game these days would crash and burn if they didn’t offer some way to upgrade, improve, and arm their characters with increasingly more deadly powers and weapons, and Band of Heroes isn’t going to dare be the exception to the rule. You can pick up temporary upgrades to your primary weapons along the way that last until the end of each level; these upgrades usually just increase the number of streams of daggers or green balls of energy or whatever weapon your character has, spreading their reach across the screen and allowing you to kill multiple enemies at once, even if they are spread across the screen.
You can also upgrade at the end of each level with gold you attain during them. These upgrades consist of lasting benefits such a higher chance of acquiring more gold from each slain enemy or more health points for your characters. Meeting new characters also effectively upgrades your team, since they usually have more powerful secondary abilities (Selena, for example, can heal other characters with her staff).
They See me Scrollin’
It doesn’t have the best storyline, and the motion of the characters can occasionally be a little jerky on the lower-end laptops or ancient desktops out there, but Band of Heroes is a hefty piece of juicy entertainment that is ripe for playing, and is one of the better scrolling shooters out there. Enjoy served in your favourite browser over crushed enjoyment, and just a drop of Angostura Bitters.