Are you a Hero? Do you have the resolve to become one? In Next Up Hero, you’ll need it. If you’re the kind of gamer that never shies away from a challenge, Next Up Hero (NUH) might be your next binge-worthy game. NUH is a 2D “dual stick” action game developed by Digital Continue and published by Aspyr that has recently released in Early Access on Steam but is slated to release on all major consoles.
As Early Access titles go, it’s clear that the game will go through some changes before its launch iteration, but that doesn’t mean that it’s light on gameplay. The story premise originates from an attack by the Ceaseless Dirge, though I’m not entirely sure what exactly the Ceaseless Dirge is, it’s not good. You, as one of nine selectable heroes, are tasked with vanquishing enemies of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds across different terrains presumably to drive back the Ceaseless Dirge and save the world. There are some mild story elements provided that begins with the short intro and then unlocks within the gameplay in short, static image conversations between Quinn and Ovalia, our protagonists. Neither characters are “playable” per se, but their ability to “sing” the heroes into existence is the basic premise of how the heroes arise and fight.
Each hero has their own strengths and weaknesses as one would expect, some of which, at this point, is much easier to play than others. That being said I’ve spent some substantial time with several heroes and found that all of them can be utilized effectively, even if some of them require a more advanced player. For example, the first character that “clicked” with me was Rook, as her ability to do substantial AOE damage, while also transforming into a boomerang that can completely mitigate damage made her a great beginner character. Meanwhile, a character like Widget, while sounding great through his ability descriptions turned out to be one of the tougher characters I ended up playing.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, NUH will require resolve as it is not a game for the faint of heart despite its lighthearted chibi-esque art style. Enemies while being easy to learn and simple to defeat do heavy damage to most characters, and they can greatly outnumber and overwhelm your hero if you aren’t paying attention. Each level you reach will give you a new set of objectives or, in some cases, challenges to overcome such as the Falling Rocks challenge requiring you to dodge random falling rocks while killing enough enemies to move to the next level. Players can create levels (known as ventures) for the community to assemble and beat, seeding coins into the levels to increase the chances of rare monsters with increased rewards.
Multiplayer in this stage of the game relies on the echo system. In NUH you don’t have any healing classes or ways to replenish your health apart from if another player is watching you and is kind enough to grant you a heal. With that happening somewhat seldom (or in my case, never), you’re bound to die a lot. When you die, or anyone else dies, they leave behind an Echo on that level, and you can pick up those echoes so that they’ll aid you. If another player just happens to be watching during this time, they can hop in as that echo and assist you, but again, this isn’t something that I’ve personally experienced in my game – though I have helped others out.
In terms of an early access title, I’m very impressed with the direction of the game, even if the story and premise aren’t really explained very well. The multiplayer in my opinion isn’t what I’d like to see in a game with such a harsh difficulty and ventures that can reach 80 levels. I feel like a more direct co-op, while not negating the echo system would go a long way to ease people into playing the harder content. With all that taken into consideration, Next Up Hero in its evolving state has more than enough on the horizon to keep you coming back. I’ll be out there giving it my all, will you be the next hero up?