Deadbeat Heroes comes from Square-Enix Collective, the Japanese publisher's indie funding arm. A 1960s spy show parody in the style of Austin Powers, the game sends players out to beat up nefarious villains in 40 action-packed levels.
When the Deadbeat Heroes story begins, the majority of London's superheroes have been defeated by a powerful organization of evildoers. This leaves only a dopey-looking caped superhero named Captain Justice and a glasses-wearing spy named Felix (who resembles the protagonists of the Kingsmen movies) to stop the bad guys and save the city. Why the heroes are called deadbeats is anyone's guess. Maybe the word deadbeat means something different in the UK than it does in the U.S?
Luckily, our spy guy gets a power glove that bestows him with superhuman strength to help even the odds. Eventually, he'll be joined by three more unlockable spies, all closely resembling characters from Austin Powers and the British Avengers spy show. The spy stuff is fairly appealing, which makes the presence of the incongruous Captain Justice stand out like a sore thumb. But this is a silly story, and you're not supposed to think too much.
Beating up bad guys
The goal in every level is the same: Proceed through a bunch of rooms, beating up the enemies who drop in to attack you. Deadbeat heroes has simple controls that make combat fairly fast and easy, with a single attack button, a jump button that also lets you double jump, a dash button, and a turbo button. Eventually, you'll gain access to special moves with their own button as well.
Punching while moving performs a nice dashing punch. Completing levels will let the team buy new power glove upgrades, such as an uppercut move and a wall-run punch. The upgrades are nice, but Deadbeat Heroes would benefit from a second attack button. Jamming on the same button (and performing different attacks depending on whether you're moving or not moving) is very simplistic, which limits the depth of the fighting system.
The game throws in a few additional mechanics to keep things from getting too boring, though. Collecting turbo items dropped by enemies charges your turbo attack, the only move that can damage some bosses. Some enemies must be rendered confused by dashing past them before they can be hit. Wall-running is OK for dodging, and your heroes automatically take cover from bullets when positioned near waist-high objects.
On the whole, it's a fast and fun combat system that's especially beginner-friendly. Challenge comes from the variety of enemies and their projectiles, so you have to practice dodging when the heat ramps up. Still, having both a light and heavy attack with which to create combos would make the fighting more satisfying.
The Deadbeat Heroes have a base from which they can purchase upgrades, practice moves in a gym, and answer blinking phones to take on missions.
The 40 levels are divided into groups of four, each one centered around a whimsical but deadly crime boss. After beating the first three levels in a set (which sometimes involves achieving a minimum letter rating for each of them), players gain access to the fourth level, which consists solely of a boss fight.
The boss fights can be challenging, and you're likely to die at times. But you don't get additional lives, at least early on. Each hero has a single life. When he or she gets knocked out, one of the remaining team members will jump in to take their place – but only if you've unlocked more team members.
Should you run out of team members, you lose the boss level. The rub is you can't just repeat the boss encounter when you fail. Instead, you have to replay the third level of that set in order to access the boss level again. That setup isn't entirely dissimilar to simply fighting a boss at the end of a long level; the boss and third level are just separated here. But having to replay that separate level, perhaps only to die at the boss again, is potentially quite frustrating.
Playing through multiple levels is also frustrating because of the inane way the game handles returning to the base after levels. When you beat a level, you don't just return to the base like you would in every other game with a hub world. Instead, the game sends you back to the main menu. The one where you choose to start the game or switch profiles.
So every time you beat a level, you have to start the game again. And this being a drop-in, drop-out co-op game, the second player must rejoin every single time. It makes no sense to plop one or both players out of the game when they finish a level. I know Deadbeat Productions is a new team, but surely they've played other games enough to know that's not how they generally work.
The Xbox One version of Deadbeat Heroes features 14 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. You get them all just for completing the game. You get one for beating the first level, three for recruiting new team members, and 10 for beating each of the game's bosses.
Deadbeat Heroes' completion-based Achievements are fine in that they don't ask players to do anything annoying like finding collectibles. On the other hand, it's always nice to have at least a few optional goals with Achievements. This game doesn't reward you for playing stylishly, perfecting levels, or anything extra, which means you won't have much reason to return to it after knocking out the final boss.
Overall impressions of Deadbeat Heroes
Deadbeat Heroes is a good first effort from the small team at Deadbeat Productions. The combat is fast, fluid, and easy to learn – even if it lacks the depth of a good combo system. Enemies are well-varied, as are the environments.
The game's aesthetic won't impress anybody, though, and the music is atrocious and repetitive. Throw in the strange requirement of repeating a separate level upon losing to bosses and getting kicked to the game's main menu between levels, and Deadbeat Heroes has a real need for additional polish. Still, beating up bad guys and cartoonish bosses is fun enough that you'll probably enjoy it anyway.
- Combat is fast and fluid.
- Local co-op is good fun.
- Infuriatingly repetitive music that you'll probably want to turn off.
- After beating levels, you have to return to the main menu and join the game again - every single time.
Deadbeat Heroes costs $14.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam.
Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.
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