Grab a close friend or three and sit down for a good hour or more with this wacky puzzle co-op published by Devolver Digital and developed by Le Cartel Studio . Heave Ho pits the lovable long-limbed ‘Grabbers’ in unfortunate challenges. The colourful creatures must jump from platform to platform, avoid obstacles and reach the goal of each thematic stage.
Heave Ho is bright, colourful, and screams almost everything ‘classic indie-game fun’. The main goal is “don’t fall to your death!” Gameplay consists of using two analogue sticks to control the movement of outstretching limbs. Gripping to platforms with the shoulder buttons, players use momentum and the not always useful help of others to reach a checkered flag. It’s a straightforward concept that works. Before progressing, the initial simplicity may begin to bore. However, stages will introduce spikes, ropes, collectables, and other hindrances to keep things interesting among the vivid style.
These joyful balls with arms traverse through several hand-drawn environments throughout their journey. Stages may begin dull on plain backgrounds. With time, the little grasping minions will be travelling caves, jungles, deserts, the circus, and more. Here on, the design of each level appropriately matches the obstacles and goals. The basketball court features a hoop, the city uses yellow and black hazard surfaces, and the inner Tarzan releases across swinging vines in the jungle stages.
The squiggly aesthetic and customisable personalities add to this overall style of Heave Ho. Everything is happy and cheerful, despite bloody paint splashing across the screen with each death. The game’s presentation oozes character above many of the typical indie scene.
“…the music of Heave Ho is wonderful, supporting the game’s outrageous charm.”
The designers’ approach to the score of Heave Ho is creatively fun. Every five levels adds a new instrument to the track, indicating progression. Beginning with soft drumbeats, building upon it with bass and so on. The final levels reward players with a fantastic musical arrangement that feels like success. A sneaky acapella is hidden on the final score screen, too. The effort put into the music of Heave Ho is wonderful, supporting the game’s outrageous charm.
Together, Heave Ho is a fantastic gem for quick plays. Unfortunately, it’s a boring struggle as a solo player. The crux of Heave Ho’s enjoyment is from the experience with friends or family playing alongside. It sorely lacks any sort of intriguing single player incentive besides new stages and costumes. It’s a shame the core features of the game’s mechanics and concept simply aren’t suitable game for a solo player.
‘The Machine’ allows players to unlock new characters and cosmetics. By collecting bonus tokens, players can become popular Devolver Digital icons. Cameos from other games like The Messenger, Gato Roboto, Katana Zero and can join with arms open wide. Cosmetic unlocks add to the feeling of progression and motivation for players to keep moving on through difficult stages.
Frederic Coispeau, Florence Noe, and Alexandre Muttoni are the small team behind the humble title. Their prior pixel-art beat ‘em up Mother Russia Bleeds released in 2016 to incredibly positive reviews. With such a unique art style, marketing, visceral gameplay and environments, it’s easy to see why. It’s a shame Heave Ho takes a step backwards. Despite being a fun puzzler, the depth and quantity doesn’t feel nearly as close. It can be finished quite quickly without too much challenge. Admittedly, it is selling at a reduced price cheaper than many indie games on the market. Regardless, it’s great to see the trio focusing on what they know best, local multiplayer.
The Bottom Line...
Heave Ho is a low-stress, easy to pick-up game and a perfect backdrop for a wild Friday night with friends. Swinging and grabbing through thematic stages to reach the end-goal in as short a time as possible is textbook. It reintroduces a simple game concept and invites the antics of multiplayer action to the now exciting party. The customisable goofy characters coupled with an adorable hand-drawn art style emits personality and appeal. Climbing across your friends and swinging arm from arm is equal parts satisfying and hilarious. Le Cartel Studio’s newest game is a welcome addition to any silly party.