Ok, let’s get something out of the way. I like shoot-em-ups/shmups, no..I love shmups. Hand over that spaceship and let me shoot some alien scum. If it turns to a bullet-hell game, no problem I love those as well. The more frantic the better.
For my very first review for this site I was asked to try my hand at Herodes. A shoot-em-up by Tecnologils which was published by QUByte Interactive. It released on 11th May 2023 on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4/5, Nintendo Switch and Steam. The price is consumer-friendly with it’s pricetag of € 4,99.
Tecnologils is a Brazilian gamedev which had formerly tried their hand at games for the mobile market (i.e. Dash of Cat and Byt Space). With QUByte Interactive they found a solid partner to try and conquer the console and PC market.
This is your GP speaking.
Herodes takes a somewhat different approach as your regular shoot-em-up game. You don’t fly around space trying to save the universe. You actually have to think smaller, way-way smaller. What’s going on then? Well, the year is 2197 and mankind is suffering from a incurable disease. The only chance for survival lies in a new technology, the so-called Cell Level Reduction Technology (C.L.R.T.). This technology gives mankind the opportunity to shrink a (space)ship to microscopical dimensions and inject it into the bloodstream of those infected by the disease. From then on it’s up to you to blast those pesky aliens…..uhhh viruses to smithereens.
As soon as the game begins you find yourself in a side-scrolling setup as is pretty familiar with shoot-em-ups. The game is pixelated and brings back memories of shoot-em-ups of old. This small indie game does do something interesting with the setting. Instead of space you enter the human body and travel through bloodstreams visiting various organs (the stomach, the heart, and ultimately the brain). Each section providing more challenging enemies / viruses to kill. There’s no preset order you have to take. It’s all up to you, you can tackle any level at any time you please.
A second surprise is the fact that the developer hasn’t chosen for a black background, but a rather colourful surroundings. Kudos to the dev for some originality. The background also has some impact on gameplay. You can’t just blast away. In some levels the patient is so frail, you’d better not hit him. Only the virus is fair game to be shot.
There is however a frustrating element in Herodes I did not like one bit. As any shmup this game is hard, even at the beginning. I don’t mind that. But this game gives you such disadvantages that the game feels unfair. Why? Because your ship basically sucks. Two hits and you’re dead (with bosses only one hit will kill you). And as a result you will die a lot, because you lack the speed, stamina and whatnot to survive. With your regular shmup you can get by, by evading bullets, circling the enemy and firing away at it until it dies or at least till you get some progress. There is no way you can do that in Herodes. At least not at the beginning or even half-way stages of the game. You are forced to grind and die, grind and die, grind and die. No matter your skills or lack thereof. Which makes this game more of a slog than it could or even should be.
There is a silver lining though. With each futile attempt to make progress, you accumulate some Genoma. Genoma is basically the game’s currency which you can use to improve your ship. You can improve your ship in various ways. Speed, damage and resistance can be improved. Unfortunately it will take you a long time before you get to upgrade one of these skills.
Herodes is no front runner of the genre. If it were a bit less grind heavy it might be a moderate indie hit with the community. As it stands it is a bit too harsh on forcing you to replay levels again and again. The controls make up for a lot and it does have a surprising setting for a shmup. It won’t be enough to receive a big score from me, but it does get an average rating.