The small screen game looking all shiny on the big screen.
When Clash of Heroes originally appeared on the DS last year, it went largely unnoticed. This was a real shame, as the game was an incredibly strategic puzzle-based experience with a fair chunk of role-playing thrown in. It was also very enjoyable. But whatever the reason for it’s lack of popularity, Ubisoft have now released the game on XBLA and PSN, complete with HD visuals and a four-player mode, meaning the game can be discovered and enjoyed by even more gamers.
The core of the gameplay revolves around battles that take the form of a match-three puzzle grid. The player and their opponent have their armies lined up in the top or bottom half of the screen with the single purpose of removing the opposing player’s life points. This is done by attacking not the opponent’s troops, but the line behind them. The player has up to three different types of unit, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, consisting of three different colours. By creating a column of three of the same colour and type, those units then charge for their attack. Different units can have different charge times for their attacks, with some being as many as four or five turns away, emphasising the importance of planning ahead.
By creating a row of three matching units of the same colour, the player creates a wall with which to protect from opposing attacks. The player only has a couple of moves each turn, so again future planning is required. Whilst this formula makes up the most basic strategy o the game, things are made more complex by the addition of champion and elite units. These units come in different sizes to the the core units and, as such, require the player lines up a different number of matching coloured troops behind them to begin charging. The player also only gets a limited number of these special troops, who come with some really impressive and game-changing powers, and so must use resources gathered from battles and role-playing encounters to stock up or replace these units.
Then yet more strategy is required when it comes to linking and stacking your unit attacks in order to gain improved attacks. Understanding how to stack and link attacks is made all the more important by the fact that the AI opponents in the single player campaign will have no problem using these improved attacks against the player. It is not that the campaign is particularly difficult, just that the learning curve demands that the player knows what they are doing pretty quickly.
Each of the main characters from the campaign’s different factions has their own special power which is charged during the course of a battle by inflicting and taking damage. These special powers should be used wisely as they can very often change the course of a battle. The player also gains experience for both their main character and their units, allowing them to become more powerful. Adding a bit of customisation, the player will come across various items during the course of the game that can be equipped by their character to add bonuses, which can also be used in multiplayer.
The game is not all about the strategic to and fro though, as there is the occasional puzzle and battle with very particular conditions for winning. A couple of early examples include a battle where the player has to hit sprites that keep moving at the top of the screen, or another where the player must not hit a friendly unit within the enemy units. These types of battles can be incredibly frustrating as so much of the battle comes down to luck. When you start charging a unit that takes three turns before it can attack, it is nearly impossible to know where any unit that moves each turn will actually be when the attack launches. Thankfully, they don’t happen too often.
Whilst the single-player campaign may become slightly repetitive over time, local and online co-op offers a fresh experience each time, thanks to playing against other humans. The local games can be played split-screen by two player, whilst going online can include four players in two versus two battles, offering a different way to play and a solid co-op experience.
Visually, the game looks nice, with it’s almost anime style cut-scenes and sprites, and offers an obvious improvement over the DS version of the game. But the game still only looks average compared to some console titles. However, being that Clash of Heroes revolves around puzzle/strategy gameplay, the visuals are not so much of a big deal.
Whilst the game may suffer from some frustrating special battles, unimpressive visuals and a slight case of repetition, none of this detracts from the fact that Clash of Heroes is an incredibly enjoyable puzzle/strategy role play game. It was very good on the DS and is even better on the home consoles. Give the game a try even if you only have a passing interest in puzzle or strategy gaming. Clash of Heroes is one of the best examples of it’s genre.