Review – Herodes

A bullet hell shooter set inside the human body. I can’t believe I had to wait until 2023 for a game like this to arrive. The idea is wacky, but lots of shows, cartoons, and other pieces of media have already featured this premise of shrinking someone to a microscopic level inside a ship in order to deal with someone else’s infection. But in gaming? We barely see this idea for any genre (I can only think of a single Mario & Luigi game), let alone a shooter. Herodes, a small indie title published by the Brazilian company QuByte, is probably the only exception I can think of.

Herodes Boss

If you are infected with one of those, you don’t need a doctor, you need an exorcist.

I am willing to bet that the game’s premise was conceived because of the COVID pandemic. The game is set in an unspecified future, when humanity is being attacked by a mysterious infection. Sound familiar? This is probably a take we were all thinking of while we were stuck inside our houses, not knowing when the hell we would even be able to see friends and family ever again. A power fantasy that doesn’t feel like a cheap exploitation of a tragedy. For such a small game with seemingly not a lot of production values, Herodes‘ premise somewhat clicked with me.

As for the game itself, Herodes feels, at first, like a by-the-books shooter with its only difference being its setting. It looks interesting, avoiding the classic “black void” background seen in so many shooters, but it’s prone to framerate issues once you upgrade your blaster to a scatter shot, since it will occupy a good chunk of the screen’s real estate. It also sounds… okay, I guess. Not great, not bad, I could say it gets the job done for the most part. This introductory level was alright, albeit uneventful outside of the novelty of the setting. But that was it, an intro. Herodes branches out afterwards, becoming more interesting.

Herodes Objectives

Each level has different objectives and conditions. Kudos.

Simply put, the game allows you to tackle levels in any order. Each level is set inside an individual organ being infected via different agents. I like that each level, despite being a standard side-scrolling shooting section, features different conditions that are meant to resemble objectives. For instance, the walls of the patient’s heart are frail, so you’re not encouraged to shoot at all times, you’re told to be precise, or else you might risk rupturing it. Meanwhile, the stomach is dark and full of obstacles, making it more of a movement gauntlet than a shooting gallery.

I like this premise, but there’s a catch: no matter which level you pick up right from the get-go, you’ll have a miserable time. Herodes is really hard at first, and that’s on purpose. You might even beat a level whilst failing to complete your objective. You can still acquire in-game currency called Genoma, even if you beat a level in this way. Genoma are used to improve your frail armor, strengthen your shots, and so on. Once you replay levels a few times (it’s annoying but worth it), your ship will finally become good enough to deal with stronger enemies, or will be fast enough to avoid obstacles without getting hit. In short, this is when Herodes becomes truly fun. Takes a while, but I’d say it was somewhat worth it.

Herodes Bosses

These bosses can be a pain if your thrusters aren’t upgraded. They are too fast for your default speed, and you die quickly.

Herodes is way more interesting than it seems at first glance. Sure, its difficulty curve borders on the unfair at first, and its in-game economy basically means you are forced to replay some levels in order to afford its borderline mandatory upgrades, but once you’re finally upgraded to a desirable degree, everything clicks. Each level features a unique gimmick or objective, the presentation is decent enough, and the controls are pretty good. In a time when bullet hell shooters are a dime a dozen, Herodes does manage to stand out, and I easily recommend it to fans of the genre.

 

Graphics: 6.5

Technically-speaking, it’s not impressive. Visuals are somewhat simplistic. It makes for it with neat level designs. Sadly, it’s prone to framerate issues.

Gameplay: 7.5

Simple bullet hell controls coupled with a nice, albeit initially grindy, upgrade system. As mentioned, framerate hiccups are annoying.

Sound: 5.5

The soundtrack is a bit atmospheric, but not very impressive. At the same time, it does not hinder the experience. It’s just… there.

Fun Factor: 7.5

Between the excellent setting and freeform level selection, there’s quite a lot to like in Herodes when compared to other small-scale bullet hell shooters, even if its grindy nature and technical issues were a bit annoying and impossible to ignore.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Herodes is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Herodes was provided by the publisher.