I’m going to talk about Hero Core a little more. Because I wanna.
There’s a lot to like about Hero Core. It may be the most perfect one-man band game I’ve ever played (although technically it’s two men because the music was done by Brother Android). It’s a perfect study in overcoming the limits of your own abilities to produce greatness.
Can’t do great art? Design your game so that you don’t have to. Hero Core runs in 320×240 and is in black and white (not monochrome, mind you – black and white are the only two colors used). Almost everything that moves is a particle of some kind, and they are almost all made of simple geometric shapes. The actual levels are made up of square tiles – no attempt to soften or round them was made. The main character doesn’t even have any frames of animation! While the word “retro” is horribly overworked, this game literally looks like it was made in the mid- to late-Eighties for the ZX Spectrum. Practically anyone can do art at this level, and it’s effective. Contrast this with Daniel’s previous game Iji, where the art is by far the weakest part of the game because Daniel isn’t that great at drawing and animating humanoid figures.
The game’s design strikes a perfect balance between challenge and accessibility. Death has practically no sting – all that happens is get warped back to your last save point. And these save points are everywhere, fully refill your health when you use them and allow you to teleport between them. That last bit is the really brilliant part – Daniel Remar has made a Metroidvania that doesn’t have any tedious backtracking in it.
The end result is that Daniel can make the individual rooms (or a sequence of rooms) difficult without making the game frustrating, since all you have to do is make it to the next save point – or teleport elsewhere if you really think you’re not ready yet. And while it’s not quite NES hard, it gets very challenging towards the end and veers into bullet hell territory on the higher difficulties. But practically anyone can finish the game because you don’t need an impossible level of skill; you just need a moderate level of skill and some perseverance. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – allow the player to trade time for skill.
So, to sum up, great design, effective art, excellent music and it didn’t take him four years this time. Bravo, Daniel. Bravo.