RETRO REBOOT!! Herc's Adventures (Playstation)

Herc's Adventures is one of those games that began the swan song for an era of gaming. In terms of tone and design, anyways. Perhaps a tad melodramatic, but as the 90's moved forward and marketing geared more towards the 18-34 demographic, there were less charming and colorful games like Herc's Adventures and Blasto in favor of more cinematic and darker. Not that there's anything particularly wrong with that, but this is Retro Reboot, I gotta complain about the advancing times moving further away from the stuff I liked the most.

Herc's Adventures was produced by Big Ape Productions and LucasArts, it was initially a Sega Saturn exclusive, but saw a Playstation port as delays pushed the game from a December 1996 release into mid 1997. This gave Herc's Adventures a street date a little more than a month after Disney's animated feature Hercules was in theatres. I remember there being some brief confusion, as some publications viewed this as a rib against Disney's film. As far as I know, that was never the case, but the coincidence is quite amazing.

Herc's Adventures is a top down explorative action game that is co-op capable. It's probably best to play it with two players, it makes accessing areas much easier, since the three playable characters, Herc, Atlanta, and Jason have their strengths and weaknesses. There's targets that Atlanta can strike with her bow, Herc can lift large boulders and structures to clear alternate routes or uncover gold coins. 

The visuals are amazing and the game is a total treat to look at. The animation was very indicative of the time period, beautiful hand drawn characters both in cutscenes and during gameplay. I tried digging, but couldn't find any vital info on who exclusively was responsible for the character designs. There are moments where is seems like trolls will grab you out of nowhere and dodging their lunges toward you can throw me off occasionally.

They don't item drop, so unless enemies really become a nuisance, I try to not waste health or resources. If you're a big fan of the cult SNES game, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Herc's Adventures plays very similar and it's viewed as a spiritual successor. Acquire an inventory of sub weapons, explore many areas across the map (all with seamless transitions), use gyros to replenish your health, and use alt weapons like frogs as distractions. The action is fast and the controls are pretty great. Some trouble moments include judging when airborne enemies are capable of being struck and it can be easy to get caught in damage loops. There isn't a large window of temporary invulnerability, so health can drain pretty quickly.

When you die, you get sent to the Underworld and have to fight your way back out. Each time you die, you're further away from the exit and waves of enemies get larger. After five deaths, you're Hades' property and it's game over. This is a creative touch.

Herc's Adventures does boast some pretty satisfying gameplay and is full of character, though the game be a little straightforward and one dimensional, focusing heavily on action with little in the way of puzzle solving. There are a lot of alternate routes that can be located to make travel easier, and there's catapults that will launch you to different areas, though it isn't marked where they place you. Familiarizing yourself with the layout is the best way to avoid some inadvertent backtracking. I did wish that you had to press a button to interact with the catapults, as merely fiddling around in their general area can trigger them.

Herc's Adventure defines a classic style of play in a period of gaming that was just on the cusp of discovering where the future of the medium was going to be. A very entertaining game with great music, a wacky sense of humor, and a cool co-op. This is one I do recommend, though copies are very pricey. My old PSX copy was a former Blockbuster rental.

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Comment by James Tuttle on June 5, 2019 at 12:59pm

I love this game and want a remaster of it. 

Comment by Mike Lind on June 6, 2019 at 2:58pm

It deserves one, I'd love to see that. If Toejam & Earl and Psychonauts can get a facelift, why not Herc's Adventures?


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