Hanging With Friends
I sit there clinging on to a wall for dear life with my right hand, and a large gold coin gripped with my left. I sit for several long and gruelling minutes as I wait for my co-op partner to make their way across to me. My fingers start to feel strained as I struggle to keep hold of my progress and my precious coin. Finally reunited, we each have a hand on the coin. I let go as my buddy attempts to swing it to victory. After all the waiting, it shatters on a spike, my hopes and dreams with it as I’m splattered in the paint from my ally’s corpse.
…the challenge comes in the form of something dreaded: getting a group of friends to coordinate effectively…
That is the kind of friendship-breaking carnage Heave Ho delivers in spades through its ragdoll physics and generally silly attitude. Each player (of which there can be 1-4) controls a head with two arms that can be used to grip onto the environment. The objective is as simple as getting every player to the end of the level, but the challenge comes in the form of something dreaded: getting a group of friends to coordinate effectively through the game’s impressive seventeen stages.
Eight of the aforementioned stages are marked with a skull and crossbones to indicate their increased difficulty and unlock once you’ve completed the initial stages. Each stage boasts five levels which can take anywhere from three to ten minutes to complete, and each regular stage adds a new setting with a new gimmick with new challenges. Everything from a pitch-black screen with light only around the radius of each player, to electrical panels you and your friends will have to navigate across without meeting your abrupt end via electrocution. One other example of Heave Ho’s clever level design is during one of the later levels where you encounter blocks that are the same colour as the background, so they are essentially invisible until you fall to your demise and paint splatters over the blocks, making their edges visible.
Various assist items are available on each level to help you should you find yourself stuck, such as a bar which deploys across the screen after a certain amount of time has passed, allowing you to shimmy across it to the level’s end. A golden rope can also spawn, giving you access to bonus stages. One such stage has you fling basketballs through a hoop; the more baskets you score, the more coins you earn.
These coins can then be traded for costumes, each filled with a delightful amount of character allowing you to distinguish yourself as everything from a pirate to one of the many characters from the Devolver Digital roster. These skins fit well with the overall cutesy art style which is closely reminiscent of Ape Out, another Devolver Digital published game from this year (though unfortunately, the ape makes no such appearance in Heave Ho). The music is far more unique with its joyful tones and zealous use of onomatopoeia, which fits the style of the game perfectly. Not that you’ll be paying much mind to it while screaming at your friends for dropping that coin for the tenth time, and that’s what this game is really all about.
I want to stress that while the game is designed to accommodate a single-player experience, the joy comes from attempting to get a group of friends to coordinate with each other. You can go through all of the levels by yourself, but a lot of them can become painfully slow and even frustrating when trying to complete them alone. Not to mention playing by yourself will rob you of the very thing Heave Ho was designed to create: laughter.
Heave Ho is at its best when played with friends, and is a sublime experience sure to tear your group apart as you hang from a boulder while a bird flies by and defecates on you. It’s a test of coordination where simple mistakes and devious sabotage are welcome. The momentum of its ragdoll physics makes for a hilarious experience where you can pull your friends down with you, and that is exactly what you’ll be doing in the best way possible.
Yes, if you:
- Are looking for a fun party game
- Enjoy chaotic ragdoll physics
- Need a good teambuilding exercise
No, if you:
- Don’t have anyone to play with locally
- Don’t play well with others
Heave Ho released August 29th, 2019 and is available on PC and Nintendo Switch (Reviewed).
Note: Cannonicity received a copy of Heave Ho in exchange for a fair and honest review.