A lesson in how to make 30 seconds last for ages.
30 seconds is not a lot of time to do anything, let alone save the world. Do you think Jack Bauer could save the world in 30 seconds (they would have to come up with a new name for 24 if he could)? Well, that is what you will have to do in Marvelous Entertainment’s excellently titled Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy, which has recently been released on Steam. In this strange little retro RPG-lite you will have only 30 seconds to stop a magical spell from destroying the world. Then you will have to do it again. And again. And again…
Half-Minute Hero has been around for a while now, originally launching on the PSP and coming to XBLA last year. But now, the retro-styled, quick-hit game has arrived on Steam to challenge a whole new audience to save the world in just 30 seconds.
When you first begin in the single player story, you may be left wondering what the hell is going on. The game has a cute visual style that can only be described as retro, and the graphics can be changed within the options to an 8-bit look which is even more retro should you desire. Otherwise, the options are thin on the ground. So, into the game itself.
The player is presented with a map, upon which they will see the sprite representing their hero, and a castle in which the evil wizard resides. Run around a bit and random monsters will pop up to do battle. The battles are all automatic and quick, with the player either winning and able to continue, or cast back to the starting point. After a couple of battles, which will see the player level up quickly, rush to the castle within the time limit and vanquish the wizard. Congratulations, you have completed the game. Queue the credits.
Yeah, blink and you miss it. But hang on, there is a lot more going on here. The player is able to make a rather shady deal with the Goddess of Time and, in return for some cold, hard cash, she agrees to turn back time, filling the clock to the 30 second limit again. This gives the player time to think, and plan. As the player progresses, they will find the maps becoming more complex, filled with additional challenges that have to be completed (find the hammer so the bridge can be fixed) and tougher monsters, meaning the player will have to grind that little bit more before arriving at the castle.
Towns can be visited on the map, and it is here that the player can pause and take stock. Time stops counting down when entering a town. It is in these towns that the player will find statues to the Goddess of Time, where they must pray to reverse time. Praying costs money, and each time you pray within a given level/game, the cost will increase, creating a difficult to manage balance between grinding for cash and levels, and getting to the castle before the time runs out.
Also within the towns, players will be able to purchase additional equipment, with some of it being so highly priced that it seems totally out of reach, pick up healing items, get hints towards completing the level and even sometimes pick up a companion that will actually help in a fight.
As the player gathers new equipment, it is automatically assigned within that particular level. Then, between levels, the player is free to set their weapon and armour as they see fit, attempting to plan for the next level. Half-Minute Hero is all about the time and, as such, these times are uploaded to compare with other players. In an attempt to improve their standing, a player can go back to previous levels and play them again, trying to reduce their time. However, at the risk of creating a time paradox, players are unable to use equipment that they found in subsequent levels, making sure the times are all fair.
Beyond that, there is not much more to say. Completing the story will unlock further stories for the player to work through, and there is a multiplayer mode to further increase the longevity. The game is simple enough to enjoy in short bursts, whilst being compelling enough to get sucked into for long periods of time. As it stands, I can see this game lasting longer than many full-price retail games.
The retro style may not please everyone, and it has the depth of a small puddle. But Half-Minute Hero offers a type of “arcade-rpg” action that has never really been done before, and everything happens so quickly that there is never a chance to get bored. Those who own the game on the PSP or XBLA will likely find themselves smiling as they reminisce, before moving on to look at other games. But if you have never experienced the joy and sense of achievement that comes from completing a game in only a couple of minutes, only to find that the evil spell has been passed to someone else and you have to do it all again, then you owe it to yourself to pick up Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy on Steam. Hurry up! You only have 30 seconds…