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H.E.R.O. - The Atari Times


Roderick Will Always Be My "H.E.R.O."
by Rebecca Pinkoski

December 16, 2003
I don't remember much about my junior high days (1997-1990) except bad hair and being mad at people a lot, but I DO remember that my favorite stress buster was this game featuring the exploits of one Roderick Hero. His mission: to rescue stranded miners before the lava at the bottom rises up and deep-fries them all (guess they shouldn't have dug down so far, huh.) His equipment: a propeller backpack, a laser gun, and several sticks of dynamite, though I much prefer the gear he has on the cartridge label and the instruction manual: toothbrush, razor, scissors, and probably the kitchen sink in his back pocket. A shooting game that also pokes fun at the over equipped spy/action hero thing: I like it.

I still like this game, a quirky shooter with a healthy dose of the absurd.


A mixed bag. The rock walls forming the mine are big blocky rectangles in light-to-dark shades of either brown, gray, blue (must be solid sapphire - payday!) or green (solid emerald - payday again!) Some walls are supposed to be filled with hot lava and glow red hot while sitting above and below their cooler cousins.

Then again, there is a wealth of detail in other areas, such as the safety cages around the lights. Roderick and the identical miner at the end of each level are pretty detailed, and the animation of Rod running, flying, and dying (lots of ways to do that in this game) is very good. And as Rod descends into the mine, he must blast his way past bats, spiders, moths, and green snakes, which are all tiny but easy to tell apart and move in different ways.


No music but a wealth of sound effects. The propeller makes a helicopter noise, the laser has a cool zapping sound, and of course the crackBOOM as Rod uses the dynamite to blast thin walls out of his way. Death earns you a loud GLINNNNG sound whenever Rod hits a lava wall, lands on a critter, stands too close to the dynamite, falls in the lava river at the bottom of the later levels... this is getting depressing.

Let me just say the sound effects are just right and keep you focused on the action; I feel background music would detract from the gameplay.


This game is fun, although you have to be alert to keep up with everything. Each of the 20 levels starts the exact same way, with a wall in your way and a shaft leading down. From there you have to guide Rod through the mazes of the mine, which get progressively more complex. The critters start to move faster, and instead of a solid floor in the depths of later levels you have to fly above a river of red-hot lava without falling in. Complicating matters are walls that will try and smoosh you between them (GLINNNNG) and a tentacle that lives in the lava (sounds like a cheesy horror movie to me) that will try and drag you down to a fiery end (GLINNNNG). Also, you only have so much time before Rod's power pack runs out, when, you guessed it: GLINNNNG!

The sort of gradually increasing difficulty lets you get a feel for the game before you have to contend with lavaproof tentacles and smooshing walls (dubbed "undulating walls" by my brother Mikey.) There is also the option of starting at a later level if the early ones are just too easy. Your power pack and dynamite are refreshed at the beginning of each level, and you get extra lives every 20,000 points, a very good thing.


Why the extra lives are a very good thing. Rod's running and shooting are easy to control, but flying is a pain. In theory, his propeller pack flies up, right, left, and hovers, but it takes a lot of pressure on the joystick and a few seconds before he takes off and then usually he shoots straight up to the ceiling. This is problematic when there are critters/lava walls overhead (GLINNNNG).

Changing direction is tough and also takes a few seconds, during which time Rod usually loses altitude and you have to try to get him aloft again without dropping or flying up into an obstacle. Flying straight left or right is almost impossible, and if you need to stop in midair for some reason, good luck. All his heavy gear makes him drop like a rock.

Rod does indeed hover if you tap the joystick upwards at intervals... very well timed intervals or else he falls or shoots up. Then, there is a pause before he drops (when you want him to) which can make getting around critters or smooshing walls problematic. In other words, until you get the hang of it, Rod will probably go GLINNNNG a lot.


A fun and addictive game, and a chance to be a real H.E.R.O.


(c) Activision

"I need a hero..."
This scary spider must be destroyed.
Hmmm... Bomb the wall, or drop down the hole?
Drats. Wrong way!
System: 2600
Publisher: Activision
Genre: Adventure
Graphics Score: 80%
Sound & Music Score: 100%
Gameplay Score: 90%
Control Score: 75%

Final Score: 90%

Reader Comments for H.E.R.O.

I want to play! by Renato on 2007-01-05 08:33:48
I want to play this game. Where can I find in internet?
Here... by Darryl B. on 2007-01-05 12:30:49
Yeah, this game kicks butt, I was planning on doing an equally "thumbs up" review of it myself, but Rebecca beat me to it :P Anyway, you can get the ROM to play on an Atari emulator at theoldcomputer dot com site, if that's what you meant.
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