Review – Heave Ho

I was expecting for French developer Le Cartel Studio’s follow-up to Mother Russia Bleeds to be something as gory, violent, and over-the-top, but I guess I was wrong. The talented Parisian lads have just proven how versatile and imaginative they are by coming up with something on the completely opposite side of the ESRB spectrum: a family-friendly, party-oriented puzzle platformer starring big blobs with faces and long arms. Heave Ho might not look the part at first, but it wowed me like very few games have managed to this year. I most certainly wasn’t expecting for this gem to impress me as much as it did.

Heave Ho

The visuals are minimalistic and very silly, but they fit perfectly with the game’s overall dumb and self-aware mood.

Heave Ho‘s premise is as follows. You control a head with arms, something that I can only describe as a hybrid between a Geodude and Mr. Potato Head, or the protagonist from Chuchel. Naturally, you have to reach the end goal at the other side of the level. It seems like an easy task, but the catch is that your character can’t walk or jump. All you can do is use your arms in order to climb on platforms, ledges, ropes, vines, and so forth, making use of the game’s excellent physics engine in order to perform some leaps of faith and rope jumping whenever needed.

The gameplay is challenging and occasionally frustrating, but never to a point in which you’ll rage quit. You can die as many times as you want, as you’ll instantly respawn. You can quickly learn with your mistakes and figure out new ways to reach the goal. It’s possible to exploit Heave Ho‘s physics engine in many different ways and find out more than one way to beat a level. That helps a lot with making you want to replay those levels over and over again, as the game itself is actually quite short.

Heave Ho

Shoot some hoops.

You’ll occasionally find golden ropes during a playthrough. If you manage to reach it and pull it in time, you’ll be transported to a random minigame. Those games are all physics-based and range from dance competitions to shooting some hoops. The catch is that these minigames will give you coins that you can spend on a machine in the main menu, which can grant you new costumes for your character. They range from simple designs, such as a princess, to pop culture references and video game character outfits, such as the main character from My Friend Pedro.

Heave Ho‘s single player content is decent enough, but that’s just an appetizer. The game’s main course is its multiplayer and good golly did I have fun with it. This is one of the most hilarious and hysterical couch co-op experiences you’ll ever have with a video game, something that makes staple local multiplayer titles like Mario Kart and Mario Party look absolutely lame in comparison.

Heave Ho

Eat your heart out, Nathan Drake.

The gameplay is basically the same when you decide to play Heave Ho with some friends, but the levels will be extended in size, depending on how many players join the session. The objective is still the same, but in order to reach the end goal, cooperation and teamwork will be absolutely necessary. You’ll need to hold your friends’ characters’ arms and create human chains in order to reach distant platforms.

That is a simple thing, but there’s this catch: in Heave Ho, the left and right bumpers control the left and right hands, respectively, so people will make mistakes. People will mess up. Characters will constantly die due to your mistakes, often in the most hilarious circumstances. Someone will most certainly mistake their right hand with the left one and let someone go and fall to their demise. Someone will most definitely not be able to catch another friend’s hand when they’re jumping in order to perform something only a Cirque du Soleil professional can pull off. Weirdly enough, I never felt angry about this. In fact, the suckier your friends are, the more hilarious the session will be. I even made my parents play a session with me, knowing that they can barely hold a joycon as it is, as I knew they would constantly screw things up. They sure did, and they were laughing all the time. So was I.

Heave Ho

Everyone’s gonna die in 3, 2, 1…

Heave Ho won me over like very few games have ever managed to. Its single player content is challenging and entertaining on its own, but once you bring some friends over, this game becomes an entirely different beast. This is one of the best local multiplayer titles I’ve had in years. A truly hysterical experience that becomes even more hilarious the more your friends suck at it. Remember those early Nintendo Switch commercials showcasing a bunch of people playing local multiplayer on a rooftop party? Heave Ho was born for that. This game will become the life of the party no matter where you take it.

 

Graphics: 7.5

Heave Ho might feature minimalistic visuals, but they fit perfectly with the game’s overall dumb aesthetics.

Gameplay: 10

The simplest control scheme out there, with excellent physics. Every single death in Heave Ho will be caused by your mistakes, not by any gameplay-related issue. You’ll die a lot and always with a smile on your face.

Sound: 6.0

There’s nothing wrong with the soundtrack, but you’ll barely listen to it given that you and your friends will most likely scream and shout while playing it. The sound effects get tiresome after a while, as they’re basically comprised of super brief high-pitched voice clips.

Fun Factor: 10

Heave Ho‘s single player campaign is entertaining and challenging enough, and its tons of unlockables are awesome, but the real catch here is the multiplayer. It’s absolutely hysterical, one of the best couch co-op experiences I’ve ever had, period.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Heave Ho is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Heave Ho was provided by the publisher.

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