At the hand of The Lich, the world has been plunged into a dark, timeless loop where the hero (and those he meets along the way) are lost without their memories. In a defiant act of survival and a will to rebuild what once was, the hero must fight his way through loops as he attempts to recreate the world in his image, all the while regaining his memories and rebuilding civilisation. Nominated for Best Indie at The Game Awards 2021, Loop Hero has landed on Nintendo Switch and it begs to question whether this PC indie darling fares just as well on the hybrid console.
The crux of Loop Hero's gameplay is what makes it so unique. Being forced into a seemingly endless loop doesn't sound appealing at first but as the hero reshapes the world in his image, it all seems to come together. The most interesting aspect is the concept of finding the balance between upgrading your hero and the player balancing the difficulty; the latter centres around the autonomy that the player has to place tiles around the road that summons enemies - by default, one would think to simply not summon enemies, however doing so allows you to collect resources to build up and upgrade your town (which provides you in-game bonuses and abilities) and gives you more equipment to upgrade your character in the run. The idea is to get strong enough to defeat the boss and yet, you don't want to make it too difficult where you won't even make it to the boss. It's a balancing act which takes a lot of strategic planning.
Loop Hero features wonderful NES style graphics that feel much more accurate to its inspirations (for better or worse) than other indie titles inspired by the 8 bit generation. The pixel art does wonderful shading work whilst purposely adopting a not-so-pixel-perfect approach. The result is a wonderful sense of depth within a bleak, minimalist world (or lack thereof, for that matter).
- Addictive gameplay loop
- Wonderful NES-inspired graphics
Loop Hero has quite a steep learning curve and not everything is explained as well as one would hope. For starters, the game throws a lot of information at you from the get-go, so it takes some time to familiarise yourself with the mechanics and due to the game's stat-based system, its intricacies also.
With the game's concept literally being to make your way around never-ending loops, it almost goes without saying that it's easy to find yourself simply going through the motions. That's not to say that the player can absent-mindedly go on autopilot, they'll need to continuously upgrade their equipment, tend to their environment tiles and ensure that they're keeping a sustainable difficulty balance. However, the concept of walking around in circles is repetitive, no matter which way you slice it.
I have never said this before but this game is best played in tabletop mode (so long as you have the Switch OLED with its reliable kickstand and not the base model that can be toppled over with a slight breeze). Its implementation of touchscreen works well for shifting around environment tiles (as moving the cursor around with the left joystick is cumbersome) and icons for command options and menu navigation are quite small and awkwardly placed (making simple button commands on the controller the better way to go). If you're exclusively playing in handheld mode (with the Switch Lite, for example), you'll likely find yourself awkwardly fumbling with the console as you go from buttons to touchscreen and if you're playing docked, well, you better get used to that cursor control.
- Steep learning curve
- Awkward controls
Final Score: 8/10
Loop Hero's concept is outstanding - I've simply never played anything quite like it. Its concept works well with its minimalist graphical design and while it has charm, that charm unfortunately wears off when you pass by your campsite for the 300th time. This game was definitely made for PC in mind, meaning its inevitable console ports will suffer from awkward workarounds (much like our recent review of Doki Doki Literature Club Plus), however the accessibility of games coming to more systems (in addition to the Switch's control variety) allows for more people to experience gems like this, and that's only a good thing.
Thank you for checking out our Loop Hero Switch review, thank you to Devolver Digital (via Powerup PR) for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: