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Heave Ho is a physics-based platformer that has you and your friends playing as odd looking potato-head characters with long arms that you actively control with both the left and right triggers. Grab onto platforms, walls and objects around you, in addition to each other, to swing all the way to the goal at the end of each level. But be warned, it’s not as easy as it may seem.

Gameplay

Heave Ho’s gameplay concept is something that I had never seen before, certainly making it a unique experience from the get-go. At first, the mechanics may take a while to get use to, but you’ll soon find yourself swinging and flinging your body all over the place.

During so many levels, I felt every muscle in my body tense up. It’s the same feeling you get when you’re trying to make that sharp turn in Mario Kart without motion controls yet you still tilt the controller, or when catching a Pokémon and you tap the A button repeatedly when the ball is shaking; it doesn’t actually do anything, but your body reacts this way regardless. So it is absolutely fair to say that Heave Ho is one stress-inducing game, but that comes with its level of challenge.

Whilst the game certainly is made to accentuate up to four player co-op, the entirety of it can certainly be played solo. However when playing with others, you can collect a coin that amps up the difficulty quite a bit. If you’re successful in bringing the coin to the goal, you can cash it in at The Machine in order to get a new costume accessory. With all that being said, you’re going to need some experienced players for co-op as the unique controls can either encourage or entirely deter newcomers from continuing onward after just a few levels.

If you’re worried that you’re going to get stuck and waste your money, you’ll be pleased to hear (read) that Heave Ho knows when you’re having trouble with a level if you’re taking an exceedingly long time to complete it. Whilst the game doesn’t have a ‘Skip’ option, it does provide striped beams that you can grab ahold of in order to make it easier to proceed to the goal. Whilst this is strictly optional, it’s a great way for players who are struggling with the game to progress without making it too easy with a simple ‘Skip’ option. At least this way, it removes the temptation and encourages the player to persevere with the level before they simply give up.

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During each level, if you take long enough, a golden rope will appear for a short period of time. If one of you are able to grab ahold of the rope, you’ll enter a timed mini-game that provides aesthetic rewards, such as costume customisation options. These mini-games help to break up the pace of the hectic gameplay, despite being hectic themselves – they simply provide a nice change of pace.

Heave Ho’s HD Rumble is surprisingly responsive, with the controller buzzing when falling from a great height and a slow buildup when you are changing up for a shock wave that allows you to propel your co-op partners across the level. It’s a nice addition that helps to add to the game’s interactivity and impact.

Level Design

Each world contains a handful of levels that each provide similar yet unique challenges. These levels generally consist of swinging your way across platforms by swapping between each arm like a monkey.

Each opening level of a world does a great job introducing the player to new challenges, mechanics and hazards. For example, the jungle world has you swinging from jungle vines and the Japanese inspired world requires you to manoeuvre around big rolling boulders. Each opening level starts you off slowly, but doesn’t sugar-coat it in terms of difficulty.

After you finish each world, the game presents the same worlds repeated but with different platforming challenges. The later levels choose to emphasise more swinging mechanics, putting your faith into the momentum of your launch. Whilst the game certainly ramps up the difficulty, which is perfect for more experienced players, it may get to a point for some where it just becomes too much.

Story

It’s a bit disappointing that Heave Ho doesn’t contain a story or any sense of plot progression. You travel from one area to the next, but there is no context to suggest why you’re doing what it is you are doing. However despite that, the game contains an abundance of personality in its wackiness, whether that’s thanks to its gameplay concept, the character designs or the seemingly random comical occurrences that happen during levels.

Graphics / Art Design

The game’s art direction and animation has a classically crude style, with unrefined edges and a timely film reel unsteadiness that makes the animation shift and stutter. It’s almost as though the environments around you cannot manage to keep still after one too many red bulls, which is exactly how you’d feel playing this game.

Whenever you die, a spray of blood in the colour of your character spurts out and covers the level. I was taken aback by this at first as it is something I didn’t expect from a G (E in ESRB) rated game, but it made me laugh all the same. I was also surprised to learn that it actually has a function in some of the levels, but I’ll let you experience that for yourself should you decide to one day buy and play the game.

Music / Sound Design

The soundtrack is jolly and charming, with a respective amount of variety that is in tone with each world’s theme. The main menu track is catchy yet simplistic and the variety keeps it fresh.

The sound effects are just as wacky, allowing you to customise the sound of each character’s voice. Some level themes also contain ambient sounds that couple the tracks perfectly.

Final Score: 72%

Heave Ho may well be the most frustrating game I’ve ever played, and I loved every second of it. Its harsh difficulty may prove to be too much for some, but if you can get some experienced gamers together who are use to harsh gameplay mechanics, you’ll have an absolute blast.

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Posted by Alex Harding

Lover of chocolate and admirer of video games, Alex is the chief writer/editor of Switchaboo.