Hero Emblems

Hero Emblems Trista Icon

It's rare to find a game on a mobile device now that isn't some "free to download" in-app-payment gouge-fest.

In contrast, Hero Emblems is a beautiful little game for Apple devices that doesn't have any in-app purchases at all.

Ever since the disgusting Smurf Village horror unscrupulously gouged mountains of dollars from parents' pockets, that approach has become the one of choice. It's uncommon to find games that require the player to stump-up the cash up front and gamble that they'll get something good for their money. It's rare to find a game that doesn't demand you to pay more than you bargained for to get the 'whole' game.

The trifling cost of Hero Emblems means that it's hardly much of a gamble, and once you've bought it, that's it, you've got the whole thing. What you get is a perfect evolution of the match-three mechanic we all know from Bejewelled and more latterly its million-and-one clones, including the gouge-tastic Candy Crush.

Hero

Hero Emblems is more interesting than Candy Crush though; it doesn't just add progression, it also throws in some genuinely interesting strategy, but without the pay-per-attempt cash-siphoning mechanics of Candy Crush.

Hero Emblems is a mini-RPG with a quartet of cute little characters that will seem familiar to JRPG veterans. Combat is resolved on a match-three playfield, where you move four types of 'emblems' corresponding to each of the four characters to attack, defend or heal.

Due to the way that enemies attack and do damage, you need to plan ahead so that you'll have the right options available later in a fight. This adds an extra dimension to the match game-play.

Naturally, matching four, five or more emblems results in special effects, and there are appropriate advantages to chaining multiple matches off a single move; it multiplies what you can achieve in a single turn.

Enemies can put debuffs or special effects onto your emblem grid, poisoning, locking, freezing or otherwise preventing you from using your emblems. There's also a neat little game for opening treasure chests.

The game-play of Emblem Heroes is finely crafted and nicely honed and because what you pay is what you pay, there are no infuriatingly obvious compromises or cheats introduced to drive some manufactured need for in-app-purchases.

Add to this the usual random encounters, levelling and equipment gathering of a traditional JRPG and you'll find plenty to keep you busy here.

It's rare to see a genuinely well made and fun game on a mobile device. With the exception of the excellent 'Kingdom Rush' series, there isn't much to compare with this in terms of value for money and depth of play. There are some unavoidable comparisons with the Marvel Puzzle Quest game. The difference is in the approach: MPQ feels like a match three game with "Marvel Franchise" bolted on to it. Emblem Heroes feels like a tiny RPG seamlessly merged with match-three.

The story is pretty basic, and not always perfectly translated - there are some typos and missing words - but it's largely an acceptable accompaniment to a game that stands on the strengths of its play.

The only weakness is that the core match-three gameplay doesn't evolve much as the game progresses. While bad-guys do vary a bit in how they work, in most cases difficulty simply means an enemy that chains (locks) your gems excessively. The poison gems that appear later have too short a turn-count-down to be realistically counterable unless your inventory is full of crosses - it's not really possible when an enemy puts three or four on you at once. Nevertheless, the RPG aspect is just sufficient to keep your interest up.