Vertical Drop Heroes HD review for PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Developer: Nerdook Productions
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

Vertical Drop Heroes HD doesn’t make much of an attempt to hide its influences: it’s basically Downwell crossed with Rogue Legacy. Which is to say: it’s a game where you’re constantly on the move vertically, and in which every time your character dies, you play as the next warrior in his or her family tree.

The problem with having such obvious influences is, well, obvious: when the influences are better games, it makes it easy to pine for them rather than enjoying the game you’re playing. Such, at least, is the case with Vertical Drop Heroes.

I mean, taken in isolation, it’s not a bad game. The levels are quick and concise; it’s literally just a matter of letting gravity do the work for you, and strategically killing a few monsters along the way. The levels are also procedurally-generated, which means every playthrough is different. Beyond that, different heroes have different strengths, and you can upgrade characters along the way. Rounding things out, the characters — to say nothing of the game world in general — are adorable without being too cute.

The thing is, Vertical Drop Heroes HD doesn’t exist in isolation, it exists in a world where other games do the same things, and do them better. In Rogue Legacy, thanks to a skill tree, you knew exactly how much and where your heroes were being upgraded; here it’s much more vague. Likewise, while Downwell has the same kind of action, there it feels much more intense, with more difficult enemies and a sense that you’re plummeting much, much faster. Not even the art style is immune from comparisons; more often than not, things look like they were borrowed from Scribblenauts.

Again, none of this is to say that Vertical Drop Heroes HD is objectively bad; in fact, it could clearly be much, much worse. But it could also be much, much better, and chances are good that you’ll spend most of your time with the game thinking about all the other games you could be playing instead.

Grade: C