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Review: Deadbeat Heroes (Xbox One)By Gabriel PVJ Jones At 09.10.2017 08:12

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Some say it takes more than a cape and superpower to be a superhero. Whether or not they are right is irrelevant, because Deadbeat Heroes starts with neither. Instead, they are given a super prototype gauntlet. It's an unwieldy contraption that resembles a wrist-mounted car engine. Thankfully, what it lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in mediocrity. Faster than average speed, a surprisingly high vertical, and a strong fist aren't quite enough to make criminals cower in fear. Really now, these goons are capable of creating explosions out of mid-air or forming ice with their mind. How can a handful of super-zeroes possibly stand a chance?

As it turns out, like library books and lovers, superpowers can be borrowed. If a gauntlet-wielding deadbeat happens to spot, for instance, an invisible supervillain, they should immediately bludgeon them with a super-charged punch, which causes the baddie to drop a special orb. With this wondrous spheroid in hand, the hero can temporarily disappear from view. Without a target to pound or shoot, all of the enemies in the vicinity will become confused. Naturally, anyone with all of their screws tightened should use this opportunity to deliver thunderous beatings.

Unfortunately, that was the easy part. Throwing a punch strong enough to knock the superpowers out of someone requires energy. Getting that energy requires punches, and punches demand baddies. If that wasn't complicated enough, baddies are plentiful and rather averse to getting punched. When a hero arrives on the scene, the bloodthirsty criminals are going to do everything in their power to kill them. In order to survive, the good guy will have to dazzle everyone with some fancy footwork. That means jumps, air-dashes, wall-runs, and basically staying mobile. This speed can be used to keep the opposition guessing, before blindsiding them with a vicious smack in the kidneys.

Landing the first hit is crucial, but the follow-up is just as, if not more, important. Saving the day is fine and all, but what really matters is saving the day…in style. There is nothing more stylish than a combo. Hitting an enemy multiple times in a short period of time, while they helplessly bound across the screen, is rewarding in more ways than one. Even if one foe falls, another can't be far behind, so stay active. Don't forget to quip! If there's not enough energy for a supercharged punch, the Y button has the hero deliver taunts and catchphrases, which extends the combo time. Frequent and successive beatings at a feverish pace will dramatically increase the score, and lead to a higher end-of-level rank. In order to reach the boss, and hopefully conclude a chapter in the storyline, players must meet the minimum ranking requirements.

While there is cause for concern over combos and ranks, the heroes' wellbeing should be their foremost worry. Unless they stumble upon a life-giving turkey, all it takes is three hits to hospitalise them. As the story progresses, more deadbeats join the cause; they are best described as extra lives. When a gauntlet-bearer is defeated, the next one takes their place. This continues until either the chapter is completed, or everybody has been knocked out of commission. Keep in mind that if everyone is exhausted during a chapter, the ranking for one completed stage will be lost, forcing a do-over. Think of it as the enemy reclaiming lost territory. If every hero loses at the boss battle, then the entire chapter must be repeated. It's a discouraging insult to injury, but don't fret too much as most chapters can be finished in about fifteen minutes apiece.

For the most part, Deadbeat Heroes is a dandy of a brawler. Its askew take on traditional punchathons is nicely balanced with a skill-oriented scoring system and a delightful knack for comedic violence. Sometimes, however, the game can get a little too wrapped up in its own chaos, which causes players to stumble around. Case in point, there's an awfully large number of interactive objects on the field, such as furniture, cars, and so on. They have a nasty habit of getting in the way, which leads to dropped combos, or worse - although this can also be to the player's benefit. One time during an especially heated encounter, the boss baddie got stuck behind a table, allowing this critic a reprieve from his fireballs.

Before throwing a punch, it's important to have an idea of where it's going. Basically, the heroes tend to auto-target whatever nearby enemy or object the analogue stick is pointing towards. It's a subtle aspect of the controls, but still quite noticeable. This is done so players don't have to micromanage every step. They are free to think a few moves ahead and, hopefully, maintain the combo bonus. However, it can be troublesome at times. If the hero's aim is slightly off, their fist could go in the wrong direction, pounding an ordinary box instead of an extraordinary villain.

Going further, these annoyances highlight the imprecise nature of this game. Certain allowances had to be made in order to give the action a proper and satisfying flow. Usually everything checks out, and players are treated to a series of fun encounters to smash their way through. However, the slightest slip up can sometimes cause everything to go out of whack. Something that could happen is that the hero gets caught on a wall or a pole, and is then clipped by a shotgun blast. Suddenly the momentum grinds to a halt, and the person holding the controller is left a little perplexed. The reasons why combos are dropped and deadbeats are beaten should be attributed to user error, but that's not always the case.

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Final Score
There's always fun in bopping crooks and knocking their soon-to-be-lifeless bodies every which way, and [i]Deadbeat Heroes[/i] is a fine example as to why the concept is so appealing. The isometric perspective and emphasis on combos presents a unique vision. There's also a wide variety of baddies to keep encounters interesting. Local co-operative play is also available, so get a friend for additional fun. However, there will be moments where not everything clicks into place. They are not nearly enough to undermine the game, but they could create a tinge of uncertainty. Still, it's a title worth looking into, especially for fans of the atypical.



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