Are you having a bit of déjà vu? Well I don’t blame you, because this is not the first time that Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes has graced these pages. Xero had the honour before and it was clear that he saw the passion and the pleasure in the title, but that was then and this is now and Clash of Heroes has finally made its leap from the DS on to the big screen.
Making that jump is never as simple as it sounds. When a short story is being turned into a film, you can’t simply stretch out the words in the hope that you’ll find the images you want inside the blackness of the ink. The same can be said with certain games, especially those that are made for a console that deals in miserly sizes when compared to a normal home television. Like it is with presentation so it is with content. The more it is pulled and squeezed apart from its natural position, the more it becomes diluted, thin and fragile. Somehow Capybara Games have managed to avoid all of these pitfalls and have produced a title that feels like no simple port.
In ways, CoH is every bit the DS game that was released several years ago. Visually it remains with the same vibrant palette. The storyline is still straight out of your favourite Saturday morning cartoon and the puzzles are no less endearing and challenging. Everything though has been up scaled to be glorious on the bigger screen. Animations are so fresh they look like they have been hand drawn from scratch and the world feels fittingly huge in this larger setting. For someone not familiar with the Might and Magic universe, I could not of felt more welcome in the presence of the five characters that you will in turn play with over the next 20+ hours. Their story is both shockingly heartbreaking and witty, and their floppy hair and revealing clothes feel strangely familiar and instantly relatable.
Though the characters are fleshed out by heart as well as pen and ink, it is the puzzles that remain the key to the experience of CoH. The bastard child of a threesome between Chess, Tetris and Critter Crunch, the player has only one objective and that is to bring down enemy HP by working the fine duality between attack and defence. When troops of the same kind and colour are aligned in groups of three, they form their attack. The outcome of which is based on their individual stats and will amount to a certain number of attack points being unleashed. Make it through the enemy line and those points come off the opponent’s health. Though I am painfully simplifying the process, even spending paragraphs on the subject would still not do the design and structure of these puzzles justice. All you need to know is that Capybara Games both present and execute the mechanics of each of these action riddles tantalisingly well. They also do a superb job of guiding you through each of the puzzle tutorials, so much so that you’ll be hastily running on to the next fight with the feeling of being very well prepared.
So battles will come and go, and characters will adhere themselves to your soft fleshy parts, but within CoH there is still space for nurture and development. Just as you become more accustomed to fighting so will your troops and the avatar they belong to, and each one will level up after every victory, meaning that all moves become stronger and increasingly vital to success. The RPG elements are in no way the lynchpin of the title, but for someone reason they protest to being its bread and butter. Levelling up at times seems like a biased and clumsy affair which can lead to many unbalanced fights, resulting in victories that appear to have been born out of luck rather than any natural skill. There are also limited opportunities to actually gain any XP, with side quests coming in the form of bounty missions mainly against opponents several levels higher than you currently are. For some, they may relish this challenge, but when XP only graces your palms in victory the prospect of multiple failures that will in one instance lead to success is never appealing. Why these elements are made in some part essential to the overall experience of CoH is beguiling. The result is that the story is mindlessly halted whilst you are forced to battle in order to feel like you can compete just to get to the next part of the narrative. Experience is also not carried over from one character to the next. So when you are running in the wild woods battling at the higher levels, suddenly you’ll be off to the city and have to start all over again with another protagonist.
It is restrictive. A restriction that is replicated in the way you navigate the world, as if on one big Mario World map. What should be an engrossing and lively world begins to feel a tenth of the size it should be. Loading screens are also an issue for a game that is downloaded straight to your system. It occurs all too frequently and all just slightly too long that it breaks up any pace that was already stuttering to begin with.
There is little though that can really blight much of this charming game. CoH reminds you that titles sometimes don’t just sit in their genre; instead they can occupy places that end up being both entertaining and enriching. Playing the title is constantly a delight and destructive to anyone just wanting to hop on for just a ‘few minutes’. Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is rich and wildly diverse in a structure that could have left it feeling painfully rigid.
Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes also comes with an online multiplayer feature which also includes leaderboards. However, due to recent problems with the PlayStation Network this has not been possible to review, but in no way has affected the overall score.
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: PSN/XBLA Release Date: 12/04/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PS3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.