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Developer: NCsoft
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

I can’t help it, NCsoft’s new puzzle platformer, My Little Hero makes me hum the My Little Pony theme song. It could just be faulty neural wiring and the “my little” connection, but it could also be because this game has both a childlike appeal and somewhat childish gameplay. My synapses notwithstanding, My Little Hero will take gamers back to a simpler time when the worst thing there was to worry about was what happens when the lights go out at bedtime.

Like heroes-in-the-making around the world, our young protagonist knows boogeyman lie lurking, waiting to steal his greatest treasures – a stuffed toy named Binky and his pals. It turns out he’s right, so the stage is set for players to travel into a fantasy world to rescue them from the monster inhabitants.

It’s all quite captivating as a concept, a style, and as a premise. That is until halfway trough the second of four worlds when one realizes that not only is the hero a child, but the difficulty level is appropriate for a child too. If one sticks with it, though, the final boss battles ramp up the difficulty to insane out of the blue. So the main problem with My Little Hero isn’t so much the difficulty level, but the learning curve.

Players use a virtual joystick and one button that controls all the fighting and multiple actions to navigate through a series of levels and worlds. There is also a second button to control special items collected along the way. Our wee warrior ports through closets armed with a cardboard-box helmet and toy sword to do battle with his nightmarish foes, hack and slash style. Vanquished baddies drop buttons, which serve as the in-game currency, and candy, which replenishes health. Candy can also be purchased for buttons from stations on various levels.

There are some puzzle elements, but they are dead simple to solve or stumble upon by wandering about. In each world there is a special item: a flashlight, slingshot, floatie or umbrella, which is needed to defeat new enemies and proves crucial in the boss battle. Once a boss is terminated, players can trade in buttons for upgraded gear.

The graphics are wonderfully evocative of childhood. The cut-scenes – arguably the best part of the experience – capture the fantasy essence perfectly. Level design, however, is less inspired. They are beautifully rendered, but redundant, and while the environment is 3D the action and perspective is not, leaving lots of blind spots and unfilled potential for a more open-world experience.

My Little Hero looks great, the controls work well and keep it simple, and there is a wonderful storyline. But for serious platform gamers it’s a tediously long journey for small reward.


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