Coming from Artax games is Iro Hero, a retro-styled shoot-em-up with a twist. A vertically scrolling shooter, the hook is that you can change the polarity of your ship, and therefore your shots. The enemies come in two flavours, red and blue (strawberry and raspberry, perhaps?), with red ships only able to be damaged by blue shots, and vice versa. So, how does this translate into actual gameplay? Well, let’s blast off and find out.
The story of Iro Hero – at least as far as I can make out – is basically that of The Matrix. Alien races have discovered how to unlock power from inside the bodies of humans, and that means we are, in effect, the Duracells of the future. Of course, some aliens have decided that the best thing to do is to keep people in farms to provide their energy, inserting sockets into the spines of the victims in almost the same pattern as those in the back of Neo. Anyway, a hero has arisen, Iro, and he is blasting off into space in order to save the human race.
So far, so cliche, but Iro Hero does actually play a little differently, thanks mainly to the polarity mechanic. As I touched on in the introduction, you have to shoot the enemy ships with the opposite colour shots, and that’s simple enough. But another wrinkle to add in is the absorb mechanic. If you are hit with a blue shot while you are in the blue polarity, it doesn’t hurt you, but instead charges up a special move. The same applies for red shots, and this also charges a red meter, allowing you to utilise one of the ship’s two special attacks. These are the traditional smart bomb attacks, helpful if you are being swarmed by enemies. Other than that lovely mechanic, the rest of Iro Hero is traditionally laid out as a vertical shooter; wave after wave of cannon fodder, then a mini-boss, more minions and finally a level boss to take down before you can hit the next level.
Graphically the game isn’t going to set the world on fire, with the enemies coming on the blocky side and not very detailed, but this is perfectly in keeping with the retro theme and it shouldn’t ever affect your enjoyment of the game. As the graphics haven’t caused my Xbox to break a sweat, the action is fast and furious with no sign of slowdown. It helps that the controls are fast and responsive too, particularly the polarity swap, which can be changed quickly enough to save your life if you manage to back yourself into a corner. There are however some odd design decisions, like the ability for the enemy to shoot you through barriers that you have to fly around; thankfully a swift colour swap sees you through the danger safely. The music and sound effects are suitably overblown for this fun little game, adding that little bit of drama to the menu screens and on into the gameplay itself.
All that said, and as an Xbox gamer who sees the world revolve around achievements, you are certainly going to want to play Iro Hero, as it dishes them out like candy. Without a word of a lie, inside 15 minutes – and without leaving the first level – I had unlocked 900 of the available 1000 Gamerscore. I have never played a game that gives away achievements so freely, so if you are looking for easy gamerscore boosting then this is the game for you.
All in all, the interesting mechanics of Iro Hero on Xbox One are enough for me to recommend it to any fans of the shoot-em-up genre. The colour change mechanic does take some getting used to, as even now I still find myself dodging bullets rather than thinking and absorbing them, but once it clicks the game is a great deal of fun. The challenge ramps up as you progress, as you’d expect, and by the later levels there’s barely time to breathe, let alone think. For fans of achievement gathering, it’s another easy recommend. Basically, you could do a lot worse than to take this little gem for a whirl.