Heave Ho Review: Get These Hands

by David Sanchez October 16, 2019 @ 1:19 pm

Reviewed on PC

I’m fighting the urge to make this a one-sentence review and ask you, politely, to go and round up a group of four friends (yourself included) and just play Heave Ho. That said, it would be a shame if I didn’t sing the praises of Le Cartel Studio and its incredible couch co-op game. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had this much fun with a multiplayer title. Heave Ho is awesome. Awesome!

Grabby Platforming

The premise of Heave Ho is super simple: Make it from one end of the screen to the other. Going from point A to point B only seems simple on paper, though, because the ensuing antics that Heave Ho prides itself on make for a raucous ride that’ll leave you cracking up and hungry for more.

Characters in Heave Ho are round with long arms and no legs. You move your character’s arms with the analog stick and use the triggers to perform a grabbing action with the right and left hands.

This game is super physics-based, and the levels are designed in such a way that traversing each stage and reaching the goal is quite challening. The intuitive controls ensure that you’ll get the hang of the game almost instantly, but it’s still pretty tricky — especially for me, as my buddies can attest to — to remember which trigger controls which hand, especially when your character is upside down or sideways or airborne. Tricky, but crazy fun and hilarious.

Friends Turned Frenemies

Heave Ho is all about teamwork. This game is built to play with friends. I downloaded the game on my work computer at my 9 to 5 and it became a go-to for my workplace buddies and myself. It was such an addictive experience that we ended up staying after work for several hours on a couple occasions. It was a great time, and fun was had by all.

Of course, as much fun as we were all having, Heave Ho is as much about working together as it is about finding who to pin the blame on when you fail to reach the goal. It’s all in good fun, but hey, it’s not my fault my pal went swinging into the air and I wasn’t there to catch him. Okay, so maybe I was there to catch him, but I forgot which trigger controlled which hand! Lay off me!

It’s funny how Heave Ho can create a love-hate relationship between you and your friends, but that’s actually a part of its charm. I never blamed the game for my (former) friends’ shortcomings… or mine, I guess. The levels are designed expertly — they’re incredible platforming stages that challenge players to learn how the game’s physics work and how to best utilize the limited controls to make it from one end to the other.

An Evolving Challenge

Heave Ho is a hard game, but it’s not frustrating. Even after failing a stage for upward of 30 times, the game remains fun. If you’re really struggling, there are a few tools to help you out. Players who reach the goal first, for example, can spawn a big, floating lifesaver that the folks who got left behind can jump on and ride to the exit. Controlling the lifesaver is still tricky as you’ll have to maneuver around spikes and other obstacles, so it’s still not a cake walk.

If your death count is especially high, bars you can grab onto will spawn throughout the level to give you more of a fighting chance at reaching the goal. Like the lifesaver, you’re still at the mercy of the preset hazards, so the challenge is remains, even if there are a couple tools to make things more doable for you.

Just like there are components to help alleviate the challenge a bit, there are also mechanics in place to increase the challenge. Each level houses a collectible coin that’s usually far out of reach, and getting to it typically requires all hands on deck. Grabbing the coin doesn’t end the challenge, though, because once you’ve obtained the shiny collectible, you’ll have to take it with you back to the goal. This forces all the players to get involved, and it creates even more hilarious scenarios.

In addition, bonus challenges can spawn on the levels. These usually require you to find a specific rope to tug on, and when you do you’re sent to a new screen to play a quick physics-based mini-game. These are a lot of fun and give you more of that charm that Heave Ho is filled with.

No Hand-Holding Here… Except Between Characters

Aside from the multiplayer, Heave Ho also includes a single player mode. Playing alone is nowhere near as fun as playing with a group of friends, though. This is a game that’s best played with your buddies, and the more players there are, the more fun you’ll have.

Even the art design of Heave Ho will bring out some laughs. The cartoon visuals are perfect for this type of quirky experience, and the characters’ dopey mugs and moans and groans only add to the comedic nature of the game. This is a multiplayer experience that’s meant to make you laugh, and the art and sound both contribute to that.

Indie game developers have been focusing on creating memorable local multiplayer experiences for the last several years. There have been some big hits, too, but Heave Ho is definitely at the top of the mountain. It’s one of the best couch multiplayer offerings to come along in recent memory, and you better believe it deserves to be played at your next get-together.

Score: 9 out of 10

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