Indie publisher Devolver Digital has helped some truly standout games (think The Messenger, Enter the Gungeon and, more recently, My Friend Pedro) join the Switch’s ever-growing library. Although these gems don’t bear much resemblance to developer Le Cartel Studio’s Heave Ho, this couch co-op title shows just what impeccable taste Devolver has when it comes to bringing more of the good stuff to Switch.
Heave Ho presents players with a simple goal: to reach the end of the stage without falling off the edge. You control your customisable avatar by tilting the left analogue stick to sway its weight and the L and R buttons to grip on to ledges and grapple across the likes of vines and poles to reach the finishing goal. It’s a title that can be played both solo and with others, and for this review, I’ll be describing my time with the game with me and one other player.
The control scheme with Heave Ho is as almost as simple as the premise. Using the L and R buttons controls the grip of both your left and right hand for your quirky avatar. If you’re the sort of person to get muddled, luckily, the game offers an ‘assistance mode’ which colour-codes each hand with a blue and red glove respectively. Not only does it indicate which hand is which by colour, but activating this mode – which is highly advisable and comes with no notable hindrances to in-game progress – also throws up some small but handy screen prompts with a flash of L or R depending on what hand is currently gripping a ledge or teammate.
There’s a fair amount of stages to complete, with an intriguing and not-so-clear difficulty spike. One stage in the second batch of puzzles particularly stood out like a sore thumb – it was uncharacteristically challenging, while the others that followed were as simple and straightforward as some of the earliest ones encountered in the game. As a nice touch, the game does lend a hand here and there if you’re stuck on a particular stage for a long time; think along the lines of the white Tanooki suit in Mario 3D World.
Le Cartel has gone for a straightforward approach to level design throughout Heave Ho. Opting for pastel colours and large, open stages, it’s always clear to see where you’re located. There are hovering platforms with very little obstruction, so the aim of the game is always clear, and you have in clear sight the finishing ‘cup’ at the end of the stage where you’re hoping to arrive alive and with your friends (if they’re bold enough to join you on your adventures, of course).
There are ways to customise your avatar with an array of costumes, hairstyles and clothing to help make your single journey a bit more varied. A nice touch is being given the ability to customise its voice; hearing the groans and giggles of your respective avatars is delightfully charming, especially when you can taunt the other players for taking too long. There is, however, no benefit to collecting all of the costumes, which you do by collecting singular coins in the later levels and exchange them for credits on the menu screen. Still, it’s great for those completionists out there.
In terms of its multiplayer, unlike in, say, SnipperClips, playing with friends isn’t imperative in Heave Ho. Every stage in the game can be tackled on your own, but in my experience, they only evoked side-splitting levels of hilarity when played with my friends. Without extra players, the game starts to show a major flaw: it is easy to get bored when playing solo. There were little to no opportunities to laugh, to stitch anyone up, or to get an extra helping hand for those harder to reach platforms.
In a multiplayer capacity, the game strikes the right balance between it being useful to have your friends play with you, and also having their presence frustrate you. It was hilarious when my friend was close to finishing her 22nd run of trying a stage for me to hang off the edge and nudge her just enough to send her plummeting to her demise. Still, you all need to be in the ‘finish cup’ for you to clear the stage, but with no real penalties for losing lives, messing with your teammates is just too tempting not to.
Technically speaking, Heave Ho won’t be pushing your Switch to the limits to show off any high-end, complex visuals. Where it does excel, though, is in its surprisingly artistic approach. Having one of your avatars fall off an edge and, much akin to a K.O. in Smash Bros., a burst of coloured paint shoots up in an almost celebratory fashion covering the stage and teammates if they’re in the firing line.
Devolver Digital has succeeded in launching not only a fine-tuned, straightforward and highly addictive multiplayer game, but one that adds something to the genre. It stands out among the crowded vista of ‘grab-your-friends-and-go’ as a title that’s easy to get to grips, but one which will constantly change depending on who you pick as your teammate. But it’s a shame that playing on your own feels overwhelmingly solitary and it should probably come without the solo playing option altogether.
Heave Ho £8.99
Heave Ho is a classic case of ‘better with friends’. Play solo and you’ll get bored quickly, but gather one or two of your pals together, and this shines as a couch co-op title that will grab more of your time than you’d imagine.