Published on December 28th, 2009 | by Cameron Woolsey
Indie Review: Herman the Game
Release Date: December 11, 2009
Developer: Dirge Game Studio
Platform: Xbox 360
Poor Herman just can’t get a break. Realizing the pointlessness of his life he decides to quit his job and start anew with his girlfriend. How nice. Unfortunately his fellow coworkers get word of his decision and decide that they just couldn’t imagine a day in their sad desk-jockey lives without their bald Gumby-like associate and so they try and convince him otherwise by simply bludgeoning him to death. Thus begins Herman’s epic journey to escape the office building of doom.
Herman The Game begins telling its story in a manner that clearly copies from Braid, another game that featured an unlikely hero searching for a better life with his significant other. Unfortunately, that is where the influence ends and the game becomes a 2D platformer in which the player runs, jumps, climbs ladders, and throws um…tangerines at enemies. There are 25 seemingly randomly generating levels that shift ladders and file cabinets around a series of platforms. The generator also places chickens on pedestals which increase your health bar when you take damage and bowls of tangerines with add to your ammo meter. Enemies will run around the level and attack you with objects of varying degree such as bowling balls, red staplers (I think), and more.
Your job as Herman is to navigate the labyrinth of ladders and platforms to make it to a final door that leads to the next level while throwing tangerines at your blood thirsty coworkers which causes them to burst into flames and die. I guess there won’t be a farewell party. There are also glowing boxes littering the level that you can pick up to earn tokens that you can trade in for items in the shop that appears between levels. These items are used to increase your survival and vary between a derby, which prevents enemies from hitting you as often, to track shoes that allow you to run through the level faster, which is something I suggest you purchase right away or suffer Herman’s slow, shuffling, aggravating run speed.
For the most part, everything prior mentioned could translate into a simple but enjoyable game that could be enjoyed as a quick time killer. The developer, Dirge Game Studios, promises a long game with a brilliant story, professional music, and levels that are challenging and fun. Really? Well let’s start with that. The story is about as brilliant as you can get that includes a green blob-like man who decides he hates his office job and decides to run away and eventually just ends up playing a guitar on a beach. It’s a strange escapist fantasy that serves to do nothing more than serve as an excuse to hurl fruit at people driving race cars in a half-mile long office building (don’t think about that last part too hard). I was able to breeze through the game at normal difficulty in a little over an hour. The game includes five different difficulty modes but I didn’t feel too inclined to try the game again at a harder difficulty. The music itself varies from OK to decent.
I did find myself enjoying some of the piano solos but overall I didn’t find myself humming any of the tunes after I finished the game. The challenge level itself spikes from level to level. Some are too easy and I was able to pass by without too much challenge. Other levels are harder, but are they challenging? Finding myself trying to decide whether I should take damage from the five race cars revving their engines and getting ready to charge me or by jumping to avoid the cars only to have my face ripped off by four airplanes flying toward me, both options would end up killing me in a fraction of a second, isn’t challenging. It just sucks.
Near the end of the game I found myself just trying to run through the vast horde of enemies that came my way instead of trying to fight them off. Fighting women on flying hoverboards assaulting me with potato guns while trying to dodge bowling balls, race cars, exploding people, and some guy trying to shoot rockets up my ass ultimately pissed me off more than providing a decent challenge. Though I suppose playing the same level five or six times over waiting for the right randomly placed conditions that would allow me passage while trying not to turn the console off could be a challenge in itself.
I can admit though that in some levels where the music was at its peak and the fights were fast and legitimately challenging, I caught myself having some fun. The game isn’t without its merits and besides the stuff I didn’t enjoy, I discovered that Herman really isn’t all that bad of a game and it has a quirky sense of humor about itself that I enjoyed. It’s functional and colorful and the unique art was always interesting to look at, though most of it just consisted of actual pictures with the people filled in as green blobs. The game really reminds me of classic games from back in the heyday of the NES and Genesis where the storyline didn’t matter so much as how fun the game was to play; Herman takes that old tradition and modernizes it. If you’re looking for a cheap and quick thrill then I suggest picking up Herman, but don’t expect it to live up to the “hype.”
You can buy the Herman soundtrack and t-shirts at the company website here: http://www.hermanthegame.com/