H.E.R.O. [Atari 2600] – Review

At first glance, I thought this was an elderly lady.
At first glance, I thought this was an elderly lady.

This article will mark a doubleheader of sorts for John van Ryzin. My previous review was another of his games – Cosmic Commuter. While in that article I mostly praised the manual over what the game actually had to offer, H.E.R.O. itself is just as good as its manual. If not better!

Assuming the role of Roderick Hero, or R. Hero for short, players navigate him through dilapidated mineshafts searching for trapped miners. Utilizing his propeller pack, R. Hero can hover about and swiftly maneuver around bats, lava, and other nuisances. A few other items like a microlaser beam and dynamite come in handy very often.

Each stage has a trapped miner at the end of it and players are scored for the amount of enemies they destroy (bats and snakes, etc.) and for how quickly they can rescue the miner. With a limited number of lives and stages that progressively take more time and maneuvering to get through, H.E.R.O. could be considered an early puzzle platformer. At the very least, it’s a lesser known classic in Activision’s library of Atari 2600 games.

What I find most appealing about this game is the process of solving stages. A lot of the game is trial and error; for instance, dropping into a room via one of two entrances only to find an enemy occupying that shaft results in a lost life, but knowing not to take that shaft again. Many of the “puzzles” revolve around progression like this so not a lot is made the first few attempts, which may not suit everyone. But there is satisfaction in making it just a little farther each time.

As R. Hero drops into the mine shaft, his first priority is to destroy that wall with dynamite.
As R. Hero drops into the mine shaft, his first priority is to destroy that wall with dynamite.

In Activision Anthology, there are two related unlockables. Scoring 25,000 and 75,000 points will unlock a new gameplay mode and the game’s patch, respectively. H.E.R.O. is in the minority of the games in this compilation as its patch requirement matches what players originally had to score.

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