Badass Hero blends two mediums I love: comic books and video games. I am always eager to see them bleed over into each other, whether it be with great games based of a comic book character such as Batman: Arkham City, an original game with a comic book style such as Comix Zone, Viewtiful Joe, or an engaging comic book based on a video game such as The Last of Us: American Dreams. This awesome mix is what originally piqued my interest in Badass Hero, a roguelite shooter/platformer that incorporates Metal Slug style gameplay into a comic book based aesthetic.
The game hit Early Access on PC in February, and is scheduled to have a full release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One later this year. Although all of the game’s features aren’t fully fleshed out yet, I can tell that Awesome Games Studios is really onto something here, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
Chaos has entered the Comic Multiverse, causing the once great titular hero Badass to lose his powers. Needing to defeat Chaos and regain some of his former glory, Badass jumps back into some of his most memorable moments to regain his powers. The story is presented in a dazzling comic book style that reminded me a lot of Comix Zone, a Sega Genesis game that seems to have heavily inspired Badass Hero. The game fully embraces its comic book theme, with the player literally opening a comic book recounting Badass’ adventures to enter levels. Each screen is the game is also set up like it is a comic book panel, Comix Zone-style.
The first level I jumped into was a lush jungle. To the right of my starting area was a room, surrounded with spikes, populated with enemy larvae and fire-spewing skulls. It was a dead end. I went back and headed downward, using my powers, guns, and grenades to mow my way through rooms of enemies. I was eventually killed by a shaman and proceeded to upgrade my character. Diving back in, I made my way back through each panel and page, clearing out enemies. And then I died. This happened again and again.
After a while, I was finally resilient and upgraded enough to make my way to the boss, a giant spider, equipped with a freeze power. It killed me within a few seconds, forcing a restart from the beginning. The game is tough, and I haven’t reached a boss since, but losing there definitely gives me the motivation to dive back in and conquer that enemy.
Controls are fairly simple, with the player being able to move left and right, jump, and shoot. Shooting is done on PC by dragging the mouse wherever one wants Badass to shoot on screen, which makes firing the gun very precise and accurate. I did run into a bug where I could not move the aiming cursor until I shot a bullet at least once, but bugs like these are to be expected in an Early Access game, and can hopefully be patched out later.
The starting SMG gun has unlimited ammo, only overheating if used too much at once, keeping the game fast paced. The other guns I eventually found and were able to use, such as the Shotgun and Sniper Rifle, were also very responsive and rewarding to use. Players can also lob grenades to do even more damage multiple enemies at the same time.
Players also have access to superpowers with the press of a button. These special powers include abilities such as being able to freeze all enemies on the screen to bullet time. Players can also find “Comic Multiverse Portals” while playing, which can give them new powers, grenades, or weapons, or be redeemed for ink. While the build I played was limited in the number of powers available, the ones there were varied, albeit a bit boring. If some of the powers available later on in the full game are even more crazy, these special abilities could create some very exhilarating moments.
Players can also stomp down on enemies from above, killing the early enemies almost instantly. While there are multiple ways to dispose of Badass’ foes, the game’s combo system encourages players to do it quickly. Killing multiple enemies in a row starts to build up the player’s combo meter, so one must kill more enemies before a bar on the top of the screen fully depletes to prevent the combo from ending. Combos put the player in danger, but also allow players to get extra ink and possible health orbs after they kill an enemy, creating a fun risk and reward system.
The player can collect enemy ink to unlock skill points they can use after they die to upgrade their hero. There were three different areas of skills that I could upgrade: Heroic Skills, Survival Skills, Combat Skills.
Heroic Skills that players can lock are more general gameplay improvements that make later runs easier, doing things such as extending how much time can pass between each kill in a combo or adding fast travel between panels. Survival Skills have to do with health, with these skills netting players things like higher health and an increase in the health orb drop rate.
Combat skills are more combat focused, doing things such as lessening the time it takes to reload and increasing the player’s chance to do critical damage. While these skills are useful, I found them pretty basic, even for a roguelite. There aren’t many options for Survival and Combat Skills at this time, making this element feel less rewarding. The developers could improve this by possibly adding more superpower based skills into these skill trees, and by giving the player more unique options and routes to take on the skill tree so everyone’s character can play slightly differently.
In addition to that, one can customize how Badass looks. Options are limited right now, but by the time the game releases it will see more variations, such as the addition of a female hero. Players will also eventually be able to choose and customize their starting loadout, which consists of a gun, a grenade, and a superpower, but right now it is limited to a basic SMG, Ice Power, and generic grenade. This loadout was fun to play with, but it did eventually become a little tedious to use.
Badass Hero seems like it will be a fun pick-up-and-play treat for people who are fans of both comic books and video games. It evolves what Comix Zone did years ago, and splices in Metal Slug-esque and roguelite elements effectively. While there still definitely a lot that needs to be added to the game before its full release, Badass Hero seems like a video game that comic book fans should keep on their radar, as games like this that appeal to a pretty specific niche don’t come along very often.