Two things instantly spring to my mind when you first stumble across Mad Hat Games’s Need A Hero on the Google Play store.
One: it looks like just another title in the ever-swelling sea of match-three puzzlers. And two: its title sounds a bit like Bonnie Tyler’s 1984 hit song ‘Holding Out for a Hero’.
Thankfully, it has about as much in common with that song as it does with the endless ocean of generic match-three puzzlers: almost nothing at all beyond a fleeting surface resemblance.
Monster hunting The princess has been kidnapped by a dragon and imprisoned in a tower. You, being a hero, have to rescue her.
You do this through matching three or more ’tiles’ together to create a chain that feeds your ‘power’ meter. Once your meter is full, you’ll attack your orc, witch, or demon opponent. It’s a rinse-and-repeat strategy that sees you whittling your opponents’ health down to zero
However, things aren’t as simple as they seem. First of all, the ’tiles’ are actually colour-matched monsters, and Need A Hero also gives you incentives to tie longer ’tiles’ together, despite the fact you’re never playing for a high score.
By chaining six or more of these monsters together you’ll be granted a Fire Tome that blows up surrounding monsters. Chain 11 of these colourful beasties together and you’ll be rewarded with a Water Tome that spurts out a torrent of water horizontally and vertically across the board.
Finally, tying 14 of these fellows grants you a Lightning Tome that, when paired with another beast, completely removes all similar pieces from the board.
You also get the chance to flex your magic muscles with power and magic moves at the end of each attack turn you perform. Some of these are free, but others require the in-game currency of Coins, or Crystals, which you can only buy with real money.
Surprisingly, though, this mechanic doesn’t break Need A Hero.
Hero ’til the end of the night
The freemium mechanic comes in right from the word “go”, but you’ll rarely find need to use it unless you’re impatient or you rely heavily on the magic abilities in battle.
The biggest, and most tempting, use of paid for gems comes when you need to upgrade your equipment in order to advance.
One option is to purchase all the individual items you need to craft a piece of equipment, and then go through to pay for its completion. Alternatively, you could just partake in many of the enjoyable mini-game matches to harvest the materials, before waiting for it to be crafted.
Crafting times get progressively longer, with some being well over two hours, but thanks to the game’s bite-size nature it’s easy enough to just stop playing for a little while and come back for more fun later.
Mad Hat Games has really crafted a slice of pocket heaven with Need A Hero. It’s funny, beautiful, and highly enjoyable, and it never lets its payment model get in the way of your fun.