Well, we had that “moment" that tends to happen on mobile where a popular genre is kind of done to death with multiple games all kind of trying to do the same thing. Most recently it was Vampire Survivors, which didn’t invent the genre of reverse bullet hell or bullet heaven or roguelike auto shooting survival or whatever you choose to call it, but it most certainly popularized it over the past couple of years. There were a number of Vampire Survivors-likes on mobile throughout 2022, and then in December as part of a surprise launch, there was the real-deal Vampire Survivors released for iOS and Android. It was a very similar situation to Slay the Spire a few years back: Once the real-deal game arrives, is there any reason to continue releasing similar games that try to offer the same sort of experience?
The answer is yes, or at least I think it is. A lot of the games inspired by Slay the Spire brought their own unique spin to the formula, and similarly many games inspired by Vampire Survivors have brought their own take on the popular genre. In some cases some of the inspired games even do things better than the original, and I think that’s the case with Pizza Hero from Astro Hound Studios. First and foremost I think it does a better job at just being a game built for mobile than Vampire Survivors does. Don’t get me wrong, Poncle did a great job bringing their game to mobile from a UI and controls standpoint, but the game itself doesn’t feel very well-designed for mobile. Things like runs being especially LONG, and some menu or UI elements being kind of tiny on a phone screen. Pizza Hero has a leg up here as it was designed specifically for mobile.
The other area where Pizza Hero sticks out for me is its approachability and, for lack of a better term, its streamlined progression. Vampire Survivors is a big game, massive in fact. The scope of Pizza Hero just doesn’t approach that, but also I kind of like that. Yes the progression can get a bit slow and grindy, but not as severely as Vampire Survivors can, and it’s much easier to stomach with shorter round times. If you ever tried Vampire Survivors and felt overwhelmed for some reason, Pizza Hero is the ticket. It’s also got charm for days and days, and I love the premise that you’re some weird alien slice of pizza and that all your weapon and ability upgrades come in the form of additional pizza toppings. Also there’s a dog!? That helps you collect loot!? Every game should have a helpful dog friend. Oh yeah, and the music here is *chef’s kiss*
Pizza Hero isn’t going to, like, knock Vampire Survivors off its throne or anything, but I don’t think it really wants to anyway. It just wants to provide a fun and super playable spin on the formula that they popularized, and that’s exactly what it does. Also, until cloud saving and cross-platform progression is implemented, I kind of avoid playing Vampire Survivors on mobile and would rather stick to Steam Deck, so it’s nice to have a mobile option when I get the itch on the go. And as I said Pizza Hero feels very designed for mobile which is great. About the only knock I have on it is that it’s free with ads and no option to remove ads via IAP, but that’s being added shortly and the developer is also working on controller support and a landscape option. If you absolutely have Vampire Survivors and games like it this probably won’t change your mind, but if you want a slightly different take or one that just has a much lighter sense of humor then Pizza Hero is here to save you.