Trevor Storey and Saul Cross have been prolific in providing C64 gaming enthusiasts with quality new titles to satisfy their new gaming needs for the old ‘bread bin’ machine. Teaming up with coder Achim Volkers, they are pleased to release The Age of Heroes through Psytronik Software.
The Age of Heroes is a side scrolling hack ‘n’ slash game, where you play the role of a ‘warrior of light’ whose task it is to transverse through 15 different gaming worlds, fighting your way through a myriad of beasts and monsters in order to defeat an ancient evil that has returned and threatens to wipe out humanity.
Giving the player the choice between a male or female warrior, The Age of Heroes set you off at a steady movement pace as you face off against a wide variety of enemies that includes snakes, flying demons, floater, green beasts with and without shields, floating ghosts and grim reaper type creatures to name a few.
At times, vanquished enemies will drop health points and you are going to need them as you only get one life. Once the health energy is completely diminished then its game over for you and you have to start from the beginning again as there are no saves or checkpoints.
Fortunately, The Age of Heroes contains a level up system. Killing enemies results in points being allocated and getting to a specified number of points will provide a Level Up which not only extends the maximum level of health available to you but it also fully restores your health.
In addition to killing nasty creatures, your warrior is also able to break stone tablets found across the landscape, revealing orbs of light. Picking up 5 orbs gives you the power to use light magic which is an instant kill attack wiping out all enemies on screen when used.
When you complete the first game location, you will be presented with a game world map that reveals that the warrior’s path forward is not necessarily a linear one. The completion of each game level, opens up access to other game worlds with the choice as to which order you tackle them being left up to you and you even have the ability to return to game levels you have already completed.
But beware that some of the game locations can only be completed by placing a required crystal on plinths and that these crystal are located in chests that are found in other game locations. So the pretense of choice is slightly diluted by the fact that if you want to progress the game, some levels need to be completed before others.
In addition to all this, you are rewarded with a weapon upgrade when you successfully complete one of the three mini boss battles through the overall game.
Those looking for a fast paced game featuring quick reaction moves and trying to get through each game level as fast as possible will need to look elsewhere. To get the most out of The Age of Heroes you have to appreciate that the game design is centred around steady movement throughout each of the game locations and finishing off as many enemies as possible in order to accumulate points and level up as quick as possible.
Each of the game levels on offer have a couple of spots where you can just pause and wait for the enemies to come to you in relative safety, picking them off one by one and just piling up the points until the enemies run out or your are ready to progress. If you take this approach, you will find that you do not have to revisit previously completed game locations too often, as this can become somewhat dull otherwise.
Graphics are quite colourful with your warrior character being of good size and well animated, though some of the enemy animations can look at little odd. The game does a good job of making each location look different despite having quite similar features throughout. There are not too many issues with the game’s level scrolling but to be fair it only has to handle linear left to right scrolling and it will be this linear landscape play that may detract the gaming experience for those looking for some vertical movement with their arcade action.
The music soundtrack on offer through the game is of high quality, though whether it fits the game theme is going to be a subjective matter. My personal view is that it perhaps is better suited to a game with a medieval theme but I can’t deny humming along to the tune while playing the game.
In response to feedback claiming that some of his recent games have been too difficult (looking at you Sizzler), Trevor Storey has deliberately toned down the game difficulty in ‘normal’ mode with the objective of making it more palatable to casual retro gamers. This is a move that personally appreciate and despite the game lacking a save or checkpoint, most gamers should be able to make quite good progress through the game within a few hours.
For those looking for a greater challenge, completing the game in ‘normal’ mode will unlock ‘challenge’ mode, where you get to go through the game again but with the difficulty ramped up. As a reward for completing the game in ‘Challenge’ mode, you are provided with an alternative end game screen.
The Age of Heroes does not introduce anything new to the genre but it certainly brings a breath of fresh air to the current C64 gaming scene flooded with platform games. Despite the linearity of the game play on offer, The Age of Heroes does succeeds in giving off a perception that the game is bigger and more varied than what it actually is. The steady pacing along with a difficulty setting aimed at the casual player provides a good overall gaming experience that I found to be, to my suprise, quite addictive.
To see more of The Age of Heroes, take a look at the video version of this review.
Simple but addictive hack ‘n’ slasher that succeeds in portraying itself as being bigger than what it actually is by adding additional elements to a standard formula of game play. Not a game for everyone but the majority will enjoy.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Contributes to RetroGamerNation YouTube channel, RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Reset 64 Magazine, The 8-Bit Annual and various other publications.