Devolver Digital publishes really great and original games. In addition to that, it would seem that this year they are becoming connoisseurs of a specific type of character — a red blob with two appendages. Earlier this year we had the wonderful Pikuniku where the titular Piku had only two legs. Now we get Heave Ho where the character only has their arms to traverse a bunch of maps.
Basics — Can you give me a hand?
I’m not sure how much is there to say about the mechanics in Heave Ho — I already described most of it in the last paragraph. The game makes the player (or players) traverse a bunch of different maps as characters with only their arms. This means clinging onto walls, swinging your body to cross gaps and grabbing ropes to swing even further. And all of this using only one stick for moving your arms and a trigger for each hand.
The game offers a solo mode with set of maps designed for a single player, and a cooperative mode where the maps are changed so the players have to work together. That can mean holding hands and swinging or just throwing one another. There are also coins and minigames that give you coins strewn about — those can be used in the main menu to unlock cool new outfits for your climbing guys.
Visuals — Endearing kind of unsettling
Heave Ho looks very nice. The backgrounds are really colorful, and so are the characters. Each one can be fully customized — from the skin color to voice to different parts of costumes such as glasses or arms. However, some of the friends I wanted to play with found the characters unsettling. I am not sure if it’s because of the very slight animation that both characters and environments have or general movement, but some players might find it less charming than others.
Music on the other hand is universally great. It adds to the chaotic atmosphere of multiplayer games, and cheers you on if you’re playing solo. I found the brass section to be my favorite. The sound effects are good too, with a lot of grunts and other sounds that could be unsettling for some people just like the visuals. Most of those can be covered up by the frantic shouting that your friend needs to grab you and not let go, as communication is very important in this game.
Feel — Not for all friends
After getting the game in my hands, I showed it to my friends hoping we could play it. But to my dismay, as I mentioned earlier, they found the game somewhat unsettling, so for the time being I had to play solo, until my younger brother saw the game and wanted to play. And, the game is actually quite nice to play. The maps are designed so you have to actually think about where you’re going, and you need some skills to get through further levels.
And there are quite a few levels — there is a tutorial map and then eight different map sets (of around five maps), each having a normal and a difficult version. That comes up to staggering 85 boards. Or even more, considering that the solo versions are slightly different to the cooperative ones.
The skills needed to progress through levels get higher — starting with simple climbs or swings to get to the next block. There are leaps of faith, swinging from ropes like a very pear-shaped Tarzan, electric blocks, hinged blocks and the worst enemy of them all — cooperating with other players.
This is where the game shines the most. When cooperatively the maps adjust for that so some of them have to be beaten by working together. That mixed with the fact that each hand can be a point of failure gives us a hilarious mix of badly timed swings, characters trying to go over each other and some friends getting left behind. Thankfully, the developers planned for that and give players a lever that, when pulled, brings out a balloon you can use to fly to where you need to be.
To make the game even more chaotic there are coins strewn around the maps — those have to be brought to an end point to be gained. And because our greed knows no bounds, of course we have to get them — meaning there is one hand less to help progress. Another way of getting coins are occasional minigames which pop up as a golden rope on some stages. Once pulled, the players are tasked with things like basketball, trying to fit in a certain space once the time runs out and others.
The coins gained can be used in the machine. The machine takes coins and spews out costumes — there is a plethora of them to be got. From basic ones like a pirate or a skeleton, to fancy ones like a Cleopatra costume or a space suit. There are even some related to other Devolver Digital games — I found myself playing as Kiki from Gato Roboto a lot.
Before you decide on getting Heave Ho check if you have someone to play with, and if that person would enjoy this type of game. If you have both, this game is gonna be up your alley. Some people might even enjoy just doing the solo gamemode. And for twenty bucks (or local equivalent) it’s worth it.