Next Up Hero is an adorably punishing dungeon crawler developed by Digital Continue and published by Aspyr Media. Choose a hand-drawn Hero, choose a Venture (dungeon) and fight your way through the horde of monsters that populate its levels. Manage to make it to the last level and you will have to take on the Boss. Level up your Hero to gain new powers, find gear to max out your stats, and move on to greater challenges until you are ready for the Champion Trial.
An adorably punishing dungeon crawler – Aspyr-Blair
To begin your adventure, choose one of 11 heroes, each with different play styles. There are both ranged and melee characters with very different attack modes and abilities. Will you pick Mixtape and his twin pistols to unleash a barrage of gunfire, Paladrin, to wade through the horde with his sword and shield, or maybe the stealthy Vale and her deadly blades used to backstab your way to victory? As you level up, you will be able to unlock modifiers to your attacks and the ability to wield items that will increase your base stats.
Death is your Friend?
The tag line for Next Up Hero is Fight, Die, Win (and probably die some more). This couldn’t be more true, since you will die a lot through your adventures, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. As you make your way through the many player-created Ventures, you will come across the Echoes of the fallen heroes who have come before you (including your own). These echoes can be resurrected to help you in your fight, and can then be combined to summon the Ancients, epic allies who can help turn the tide of battle in your favor.
Be warned though, the levels themselves are also out to get you. Some are simple Elimination levels that only require you to take out a certain number of enemies. The Sky Is Falling throws a constant barrage of damaging meteors at the map, and Greed turns the shiny prestige tokens you are trained to pick up into instruments of death.
Next Up Hero has a suite of interactive controls built in to its spectator mode as well as full Mixer integration. Twitch integration provides the viewers with the ability to use chat commands to control the action. These controls allow viewers to both help and hinder the player in a variety of ways. Viewers can spawn Echoes to be resurrected, or Shadows that will attack the player. Use the cheer buttons to provide the Commander/Dirge with power to affect the gameplay further.
On each Venture level, one viewer can become either the Commander or the Dirge depending on whether they are trying to help or hinder the player. The Commander can use their cheer points to spawn Ancients, refill special energy, and heal the player. The Dirge can bring all kinds of pain by applying status effects to both the player and their enemies.
To Kill or Not To Kill?
Each Venture presents you with a set number of levels to progress through, the last level being a boss fight. Defeat the boss and you’re presented with a choice: Kill for immediate rewards or Incapacitate and push them further into the dungeon for a chance at greater rewards.
Next Up Hero is an online game, and as such it does require an online membership like Xbox Live Gold or Playstation Plus to play. I have encountered a few technical issues like failing to connect to ventures and being able to get out of bounds in levels, but nothing that I would consider to be game breaking. Game play can begin to feel repetitive if playing alone, however if you have spectators using the interactive controls, things change immensely.
As a Mixer streamer, I have had a lot of fun with Next Up Hero and would not hesitate to recommend it to other streamers. The interactivity brings viewers much closer to the action. I have had several evenings with both a Commander and Dirge working against each other, Shadows being spawned in at the most inopportune times, and my chat cheering me on to victory. I would rate the game a 7 out of 10. Next Up Hero is available now on Xbox One(included in Game Pass), Switch, PS4, PC and Mac.