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APPsolutely Review - Heroes of Loot

Mark Marianelli

I don't know what it is about these cats over at Orange Pixel, but I seriously want to have their digital baby. You can say I'm biased if you want, but they can do no wrong in my eyes. Their last game, Gunslugs, practically had my wrists on ice for days with the addictive gameplay, but their newest game has officially given me a blister on my thumb. Ladies and gentlemen, Heroes of Loot.

Simple, retro, fast-paced and crazy hard. This seems to be the formula for most games put out by Orange Pixel and Heroes of Loot certainly carries on the tradition. As for the gameplay itself, for all intents and purposes, this game is the 1985 classic arcade game, Gauntlet. It's a dungeon crawler starring four generic classes - Elf, Warrior, Wizard and Valkyrie. Or as I like to call them: Robin Hood, The Red Castle Crasher, The Fantasia Wizard and Princess Zelda.

It even mimics that horrible computer voice the original Gauntlet used to use. For some reason that just creeps me out when I'm playing late at night. Maybe Siri's an unlockable player?

There was an actual plot to the game, but the cutscene was so sporadic and random with its dialogue that I couldn't really catch what was being said, so as far as I'm concerned, the plot is "Dungeon = bad, kill = good". What I will say is that despite the lack of coherent dialogue, it had me chucking to myself while I was reading it, so A+ for humor! And that's sort of what this game boils down to, it doesn't take itself very seriously at all - and that's a good thing. It's a retro-style dungeon crawler, have the plots ever been that involved? Kill this, earn that. It's all about gameplay in the end.

So let's discuss said gameplay, shall we? Let's go over the character classes first. Like I said, you have your choice of Elf, Warrior, Wizard and Valkyrie. What's the difference in these classes? Not much at all. The only thing that's worth knowing is that the Wizard is the guy to use. Think I'm playing? Look at this:

Can you guess what the major difference between the ELF and the WIZARD is? If you guessed that the Elf sucks more, you're correct! Maybe there's other attributes to go off of, but I haven't discovered any. All of their weapons are generic projectiles, maybe some move quicker than others, but then maybe my phone was just lagging. Really what you should take away from this character selection screen is how much of a challenge do you want. There should have been more of a balance in these characters, or at least they should be unlockable as you go along. Starting out with the option of a good player or a bad player is kind of pointless unless you're seriously concerned about what color you're going to play as.

Once you've selected your character, you begin the game. Each level is a randomly generated dungeon. The gameplay is simple, use your left thumb to move around, use your right thumb to attack. You go through each dungeon and clear out enemies until you're given a key. Use that key to exit the level through a door indicated by a blinking white arrow and you're on to the next level. Each level will have either a shop, a challenge room or both (usually both). The shops only offer one item per level and it varies between health, different shields and all kinds of power ups ranging from invisibility cloaks to a cup of life which can be used at wells to regain health. The items that are worth purchasing start at around 200 gold, so don't even bother going into the shops until you've saved at least that much.

The challenge rooms are simply what their name implies, a room where you receive a challenge. They're all kind of the same, kill X amount of a specific enemy within a certain amount of time. Some are easy, others are impossible. Not impossible because of skill level, but usually because the game doesn't always spawn the type of enemy you're supposed to be killing. I can't really say it's a glitch, it's just that everything in this game is randomly generated; the enemies, the layout, the items, the challenges, heck, even the difficulty at times. Completing the quests will either give you gold or power-ups... also random.

The enemies, from what I can gather, are made up mostly of bats and different colored Pac-Man ghosts:

Like a lot of old school arcade games, the colors of the enemies change as the difficulty goes up. The only enemies that really do get their own unique sprites are the big baddies of the dungeons - Cyclops, Rockies (or was it Stonies? Some kind of geological formation) and Minotaurs. But if you're looking for these to look anything like they sound, you're in for a rude awakening. And that' a great deal of the appeal to me, it's so simple it's almost stylized. They're idea of a minotaur is basically a skull with horns and feet. Does it make sense? No. Does it matter? Absolutely not. It's still a really intimidating enemy to encounter. Did I mention it spits fire? Because it totally does.

Much like Gauntlet, the enemies are in very large numbers at any given time. If you're not careful, you can get trapped in a room full of baddies and die very quickly. Which brings me to your life meter. First thing you should train yourself to do is pretty much ignore your life bar. Being aware of your health won't actually impact your game at all. This is because there's not a lot of room for strategy. There's so much happening on the screen that you don't really get a sense of what's flying at you to kill you. You just take your licks and hope you can clear the room out before it clears you out. You'll find hearts and potions to heal you along the way, but sooner or later, this game will get the best of you. So get used to seeing this A LOT:

It should also be noted that this isn't a save your progress and continue kind of game - You play until you die, then you start over and try to die a little slower. Whatever items you find, however much level-upping you do, it doesn't matter. When you're done you're done, so get ready for some serious frustration. I'm not sure that there's an actual end to the game, I haven't gotten as far as I typically do before doing reviews, but I don't think I'll ever get that far anyway. I've reached XP Level 11 and I've finished a max of 28 Dungeon Levels. Nothing advanced story-wise and the cut scenes only introduced new monsters, not any kind of plot development. So as far as I'm concerned, this game is classic High Score-based arcade gaming. And I'm totally fine with that. It takes the sting off of getting really far along and dying because the only thing you had to look forward to was... well... dying.

Luckily the gameplay doesn't fall flat on its face. It's hard and a little mindless, but it keeps you addicted. That's not to say though that the gameplay is flawless. The controls, as simple as they are, could use a little work. Because your only options are move and shoot, the game utilizes an auto-aim feature. Which is nice at times, but can occasionally get a little irritating. Having no control over who you're going to attack leaves you at a disadvantage. For instance, if you're coming out of a narrow hallway and there's an enemy directly in front of you and an enemy just around the corner, there's a good chance you're character is going to aim at the enemy around the corner, thus hitting nothing but wall while the enemy directly in front of you hacks away at your precious life. This will happen a lot, and many times it will cost you the game. Having the option to control where you aim would come in handy in later levels. Another issue with the controls is that the PAUSE button is placed in a very awkward spot on the screen and has a small hit-radius. So while you're desperately trying to pause the game while your wife, let's say, is talking to you, you're probably just going to die because you're character will be firing at nothing while your greasy fat finger attempts to press an unpressable button on the screen.

I also found a glitch where my character would randomly be teleported off of the map and into the blackness outside the dungeon walls where I remained stuck until I quit. This game seriously IS like an old retro game!

I haven't been able to duplicate that glitch, so who knows what happened. But again, my character was just going to die anyway.

There's not a ton else to really touch on. As I stated, this game is ridiculously simple. Despite a few flaws like an annoying auto-aim system, poorly placed pause button, lack of character class distinction and a one-and-done classic arcade mode, I think it's a pretty solid game. I'd like to see where future updates have in store. When you select your character, a "P1" appears over their head, implying multiple players. There's obviously no multilayer that I'm aware of, but it'd be cool to see that come with a future update. I'd also like to see an actual story-mode down the road so that I can feel like there's a purpose to all of my wasted hours of gameplay.

All of these problems aren't enough to really hinder the overall experience, no matter how many times I get mauled to death by a Minotaur or sneak-attacked by a Super Mario Firesnake-

- I keep coming back for more. Which is exactly how it should be. This game is very addictive and probably one of the most fun games I've played since Gunslugs. These Orange Pixel guys know how to make a classically entertaining game.

Even though Heroes of Loot isn't perfect, I have to give credit where it's due - I got a blister on my thumb from playing it so much. You read it right, I literally obtained a physical injury from playing this game so hard. Only something of that caliber is worthy of the ultimate APPsolute rating of pain and gain... You guessed it, the prized "CARPAL TUNNEL" rating! Nicely done, Orange Pixel!

*** UPDATE ***

So just minutes after I posted this, Orange Pixel released an update for Heroes of Loot - They added some permanent character upgrades, improved the controls a little (still only auto-aim though) and touched up one or two other things that I didn't even touch on in this review so it isn't all that important... Yup.