Pocket Heroes [$0.99] is a game we've been following and looking forward to for some time. If you miss the weekly tabletop RPG session you had in college, or if you'd be on WoW if only you had a dozen or so more free hours in the day, then Pocket Heroes is looking for you.

Pocket Heroes is intentionally bite-size. Unlike other "pick up and play" RPGs that I don't "pick up and play" because a 5-minute coffee break can easily turn into my entire lunch hour, I'm not afraid of opening Pocket Heroes. For that same reason, the game demands a little patience: you take one turn at a time, on average moving about five spaces and taking two actions (such as attacking twice), then you send of your turn and have to wait for the other 1-3 players in your party to send in their turns before you get to go again.

If a turn ever takes more than two minutes to play, it's because you're really getting into the in-game chat.

Though the time scale couldn't possibly be more different, there are moments when playing this game reminds me of crowding around a Gauntlet machine with my friends back in the day. Play is close-in and intended to be collaborative in a casual, friendly way. Despite appealing to MMORPG players, Pocket Heroes gameplay takes all of the right lessons form casual asynchronous games: there's no waiting for re-spawns, no carefully coordinated raids or massive battles, and functionally no grinding (Hallelujah!), just quick bursts of fun.

Though the story is nominal, the game does have a bit of a tabletop feel, due in part to the fact that each level is, as the developers advertise, "hand crafted". This means that the challenges should always be appropriate for  the size and level of the party. If your party composition is completely off-balance (no healing in a party of four, perhaps) or you have a Leeroy Jenkins in your midst, you might all die, which means restarting the level, but otherwise, there is no grinding. I'll say that once more: no grinding.

The game isn't perfect: the completely custom levels mean that each game presents the same challenges every time, but this is a party-based campaign, so playing "through" is intended to be a long-term experience. It also means that the game isn't at all "open world" or "sandbox", but as long as you know that, you won't be disappointed.

App Store ratings for Pocket Heroes have taken a beating because of a design decision: the game is multiplayer only, and only with your Game Center buddies. Because of the negative feedback, F5 is adding random play, but that will create it's own problems. Each turn is short, but unlike Words With Friends [$4.99 / $9.99 (HD) / Free], a game of Pocket Heroes is a long-term commitment. Who you play with really matters. If anyone stops playing, the game dies.

Fortunately, there is a Touch Arcade forum thread for people looking for fellow adventurers, and another one for people willing to put more effort into planning a play group before beginning a game. Or you can just badger your old roleplaying chums until they buy the game (and iPhones, if necessary).

I have a few minor quibbles with the game: at present, if you roll poorly in combat, you can re-sync your turn and try again (being able to undo movement is good - being able to re-roll attacks encourages "cheating"), and I'm not sure how I feel about the option to buy in-game gold through IAP. I'd rather pay more for the game up-front and know that gold drops are balanced. When they implement random players, I hope they also add some sort of "party management" system allowing inactive players to be dropped and replaced.

Despite it's flaws, Pocket Heroes is well worth the wait, and with all of the additional content F5 has in the works, it may well have found a permanent home on my iPod Touch. Additionally, the guys at F5 Games are hard at work supporting the game, with an update already in the works.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • http://www.facebook.com/skaidon Adam Roberts

    Needs random team mate option. Otherwise, next to useless.

    • Strange Brew

      Actually there is a way to play with 2 characters yourself in your own game. So u don't have to play with someone else if u don't want to. Visit Pocket Heroes' forum on touch arcade it's talked about there on pg 65 or so.

      • http://www.facebook.com/skaidon Adam Roberts

        Yeah, that's rubbish. Not interested in doing that at all.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5FLRQI2X2LU3IHMCG7HEAEFD5I Cat Astrophy

        Yeah because playing with random people is fun...

      • http://www.facebook.com/skaidon Adam Roberts

        Beats playing with yourself.

  • R Skse

    Hey Gamedev, how do reset my password? I cant log back into my games..Im holding up the line

  • Noah

    Really? 3.5?

    You can't delete games.
    You can't join random games.
    You can't view who you're playing with.
    You can't rewind the action to see what happened.
    You can cheat by replaying your actions over and over as the dmg you deal differs, the loot differs, and the dmg done by others differs.

    Finally, what story? The first quest is: reach the cabin. The second quest is: cross the bridge. Seriously? 3.5 stars?

    • https://me.yahoo.com/rekzkarz#a0df5 REkzkaRZ

      I agree with Noah's points:  this game IMO is quite flawed for all those things AND including going to the 'store' (ie you can resync & do it again & have different stuff).

      I haven't seen any story, and even the chat engine is fairly weak.  When the action 'plays back', it is often not on-screen & you can read the two lines really quickly at the top -- sometimes.  If you miss that info, too bad; you can't go back & re-read.

      My main beef with the game is I paid $1 (no problem with that since IMO this is a visionary game) but asking people to pay cash (IAP) for in-game stuff is ridiculous.  This game is not fully designed, has significant flaws (as noted & more), but the devs want more money for it?  Why?

      Now a quick comment on why this game is a vision of things to come: asynch play is the future.  This game proves it.  I'm really enjoying ONE of the 10+ games I'm playing with a friend.  I posted my GameCenter ID in a forum & got 20+ game requests -- I joined, but none of those people are consistent players.

      Personally, I doubt this game will become a 5 star game.  But I'm hopeful that it inspires some 5-star games to take the best & leave the worst.  Clearly this type of game is wanted by the public (ie I'd love to see ShadowRun mobile implementation follow an asynch gameplay format).

  • jcifrit

    I haven't been far past the freakin Inn at the start because EVERY game I've started with forum members (needed to FIND GameCentre people to even play) has died very prematurely. I'd say don't bother with this unless you have friends in person who also have the game.

  • Strange Brew

    Super fun game sure it's got it's issues but it's freaking .99 cents. Some peeps expect waaaay too much.

    The main dev is constantly on the forum and already has an update submitted to apple with another on the way.

    If u got someone u trust to play with its a blast! If not there is a way to play "solo". Read pg 63 to 65 on the TA Pocket Heroes forum.

    Lots of potential here. So far I'm having lots of fun.

    • jay401

       I don't know, seems like most of the complaints are about functional issues. Regardless of the price, if it's not functioning properly, that's not "expecting waaaay too much" of a game.

  • Eric Tarbox

    How can you not mention the fact that there are a ridiculous amount of bugs?

    -Incorrect team health and tile location.
    -Being able to move outside the actual map sometimes.
    -Enemies coming back to life after dieing.
    -Enemies getting on the same tile as you on accident and then you can't move until you kill it.
    -Accidentally hitting end turn when trying to view your items on the player card.
    -Jewelry changing stats even when they have no stat modifiers on them
    -AND!!! The infinite treasure chests, I mean come on this one is actually just awesome.

  • Schpank

    Putting lipstick on a pig.

  • Mobile_Doogie

    I didn't have any Game Center friends before this, so I had to hunt some down on the forums. It took a few games, but I finally found a group I could stick with. While it is mildly entertaining once you get a good group, the pain may not be worth it for the average person. I expect even more complaining once random parties become an option, due to so many dead starts.

  • http://twitter.com/NillaKig Darnel Johnston

    i have 2 active games, 9 just sitting there for eternity i presume. 

    • Mobile_Doogie

      The ability to delete games is planned for a future patch, among many things that should have been included at release.

  • ohhyeah

    Lameeeeeee

Pocket Heroes Reviewed by Tof Eklund on . Rating: 3.5