Nearly everyone has a hero. The thing with heroes though, is that they grow old. This is the basic premise of Has-Been Heroes, the latest game from Trine developer, Frozenbyte. It’s appearing on several platforms, but the focus of this review is of the Nintendo Switch version. The platform which, at the moment, is probably the most suitable way to play the game thanks to its handheld option.

You control a total of three heroes at once as you try and escort the king’s twin daughters to school. Obviously in typical video game fashion there’s a big bad enemy wanting to make that not as easy a possibility as it sounds. Just to make it even trickier, no one path towards the school will be the same due to the game being a roguelike. At the start of each run you’ll be placed into a random setting with a map to progress through towards a boss.

The map will be littered, at random, with merchants and other things that can aid you as well as hinder you. It will be up to you what route you go, with most maps offering several routes to the boss. In some situations you may decide to progress one way then go back on yourself. If you decide to go back on yourself you’ll want to keep an eye on your candle supply. If you’re plunged in to darkness then your heroes will get hurt. Sometimes it may be better to run in to battle, rather than doubling back on yourself to avoid it.

Combat requires you to manage three lanes with your different heroes in a mixture of turn based and real time combat. You can change what lane your hero is in after instigating an attack. This helps you in trying to chain together your moves by timing everything correctly. First you’ll need to whittle down the stamina of an enemy to stun them. Once they’re stunned you’ll want to hit them with the most powerful attack you have. Some characters are better at whittling down the stamina of an enemy due to having multiple hits, whereas others will be better at dealing big damage, but may lack the multiple hits to whittle down the stamina.

On top of regular attacks there’re also various types of magic and skills. All heroes start with their own skill they can use. Some of them will stun an enemy whereas others will allow players to attack more than their standard amount. As you progress through the game, and inevitably fail, you’ll be able to unlock more spells and other items that can be found as you proceed through your next turn. All you have to do is make sure you get the orbs that enemy drops when you defeat them.

The combat is strangely addictive but its not without its issues. Sometimes in the middle of chaining together an attack you’ll want to use a spell, but using a spell will all of a sudden jump the game back in to real time, and thus not give you the chance to continue the chain. Not being able to change lane without having to instigate an attack is also a nuisance that will see you having to waste an attack with a character just to move someone else to the lane you want them in. All this hinders the flow of the combat, which in turn ruins a core part of the gameplay.

It’s not just gameplay issues, though, that hinder Has-Been Heroes. Its design doesn’t vary enough from enemy to enemy, meaning it quickly begins to feel repetitive, especially in the first few hours with the game. It’s not helped by the fact that most battles in the build up to a boss fight do little to challenge you for the most part, especially in the early games. You’ll find yourself wanting to avoid most battles, but never really with the fear of them being too difficult. Just the urge to get to the boss so you can get to the next level. It does work much better in shorter bursts, making it something more suited for the handheld mode of the Switch than the docked television mode.

During the times Has-Been Heroes clicks you’ll find yourself having fun with it. If you can stick with it through at least one complete run then the game does open a bit and begin to add some much needed variety. Unfortunately the game also has too many hindrances in its gameplay that will put many gamers off getting that far. Whittling down the stamina of an enemy and hitting it with a fatal blow is satisfying, but it’s also a process that is clunkier than it needs to be due to the limitations imposed in its lane combat.


Brett Claxton

I like video games. That's why I write about them. I've played them for years and in that time I've found a love for creepy horrors, indie darlings and the oddities that come out of Japan. Although my main purpose on the site is to write up news and reviews I'm also one of the main Let's Play video creators of the team (or, as I call them, Brett's Play videos). You can check them out here: