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Review

Review: Half Minute Hero

Me > Evil.

Evil Lords are problematic. Villainous and often well timed, their presence has been populating video games since time began and their nefarious ways have been the blight of many a hardened adventurer.  Previously, though, said sword wielding knight of All That Is Good has had a moment or two to collect his thoughts, to plan his attack and to ensure his chain mail isn’t clashing with his helmet.  Until now, that is.  A challenger enters.

Half Minute Hero takes the Role Playing Game (RPG) rulebook and throws it from the horse drawn carriage, lost forever underfoot as everything you thought you knew about console gaming is pulled from your memory and replaced with a rush of excitement last seen when Nintendo rocked similar notions of convention with the first Wario Ware, Inc.  The overwhelming feeling is somewhat similar: panic, but a thrilling panic.

Ostentatiously a top-down, self-deprecating sideways poke at the genre Half Minute Hero is a random battler, but with time itself as the toughest end boss in the game.  You can’t relax, because you literally won’t have time – 30 seconds can be lost far quicker than you’d guess and although the game soon incorporates ways to rewind time and slow it down, doing so is always at the expense of otherwise expendable tokens such as money, and pride.

The overworld, peppered with castles and towns, is little more than a means to an end, a way to build the tension as your Hero negotiates mountain and jungle as the clock ticks by, but what is effectively a glorified map makes way for 2D areas where you can talk to non-player characters (NPCs), take part in sub-quests and, perhaps most importantly, buy goods from traders, all this normally at your leisure given the presence of the Goddess Of Time.

The irony of the basic gameplay and genre staples isn’t lost on Marvelous Entertainment, in fact the developers have played on common RPG checklists and ensured no stone is left unturned with regards to gentle nudges at fan favourites.  Most striking are the visuals, sub-par 8 bit animation and pixels big enough to eat your dinner off are the order of the day, not pulled off terribly consistently but always with a wry smile.

The game takes a while to find its feet, but once the tutorials are out of the way and Half Minute Hero doesn’t have to worry about its eponymy there’s an enormous amount of fun (and challenge) to be had if you can get into the groove that Marvellous have cut.  It’s not for everyone, and hardly perfect, but for anyone wanting something refreshingly different but with its tongue firmly lodged in its cheek, your PSP will find no better title this month.

Pros:

  • A great sense of humour
  • A few different game modes to play
  • Is only 100MB, downloads in a jiffy

Cons:

  • Lacks a little subtlety
  • The graphical style can be a little too basic
  • Not the biggest game on the system

What was once a free downloadable Windows project is now one of the cleverest games on the PSP.  It’s a smart, humourous post-ironic dig at everything from Zelda to Final Fantasy which never takes itself too seriously.  Split over several game modes (including a neat interpretation of real time strategy and even a shooter) Half Minute Hero not only bucks the expectations of gamers but also manages to carve its own niche.

Score: 7/10

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