Game: Fledgling Heroes
Genre: Platformer, Auto Runner
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Apple Arcade)
Developer | Publisher: Subtle Boom | Decibel PR
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US E (Everyone)
Price: UK £7.99 | EU € 8,99 | USD $9.99 | CAD $13.11|AUD $ 12.99
Release Date: 7th May 2020
Review code used with thanks to Decibel PR
Fledgling Heroes provides an opportunity for younger gamers to not only master the skills required for an auto-runner, but it also gives players the opportunity to create their own levels within a rich environment decorated by beautiful art and character design.
When playing through Fledgling Heroes I found myself appreciating what it was doing, but somehow I was not feeling moved by it or the gameplay. I started to question myself wondering if there was something my self-isolation had stripped from me, did days of playing different games make me numb to the deep pleasure I once got from them? As I dug deeper into this question, I realized that I was approaching Fledgling Heroes from the wrong perspective.
I’m afraid I often write from my voice with my ideas and concerns, and I often do so because I imagine that the audience who will be playing a game is like me: an adult.
I know there’s a long running stigma in the gaming community surrounding “kid’s games”. It often seemed as though, in the past, if a game was designed for kids and wasn’t enjoyable for adults than it didn’t merit serious consideration.
Therefore, reviewing this game required me to think not as myself but as a younger me. I thought long about the games I enjoyed as a kid, as well as what aspects of those games I remembered most fondly.
I’m afraid the metrics of this might not be as transparent as my other reviews are, but I do believe I can give some insight. Maybe I can explain by asking myself the same questions and answering from the perspective of my younger self.
Is the Game Boring?
As a kid I wouldn’t really ask myself if a game was fun, but instead I cared more about whether or not it bored me. So the question that matters here is: is the game boring?
I would have to say that it definitely is not boring. While it is repetitive in the way platformers and auto runners can often be, repetitive doesn’t always equal boring. Other platformers and auto-runners, those I now enjoy, require technical jumps and memorization; what this game lacks in terms of technicality it makes up for in the muscle memory it asks you to build. While this isn’t necessarily challenging to me now, the challenge it does present is at once limited but meted properly. The game feels balanced, it never feels unfair or too difficult, nor does it feel like it would be too easy, and this is something that comes through. Regardless of my own abilities outpacing the game, the game feels perfectly paced.
I also want to point out that levels have an aspect of replayability in the different achievements you can reach which get you the all-too-necessary golden feathers. These feathers often unlock special areas and help you progress in the game.
However, you may have noticed something else that makes the game “not boring” and you’d quickly find it in these screenshots.
Does It Look Good?
It cannot be emphasized enough that this game has an art style which is fresh, bright, and lively. The various aviary characters (you begin with the humble red macaw) are customizable; with different color schemes being unlocked as well as the opportunity to enter a mode which resembles a coloring book and allows you to create color schemes of your own. Their plumage is your canvas.
The worlds around you are vibrant, and each environment feels like it’s part of the same larger world. The overworld is utilitarian in its offerings but it hasn’t been neglected either as it evokes the feeling of a pop-up-picture-book or a beautifully ornate diorama made of irregularly cut construction paper.
Though it doesn’t go as far as something like Yoshi’s Wooly/Crafted World in this artistic pursuit, it settles at a good place between the cleanliness of digital art and the playful irregularities of a sprawling craft project.
Aesthetically there is nothing more to be desired. The aesthetic they’re going for feels effective, purposeful, and light; it feels like the design of the game meets its mark every time.
Is It Unique?
Auto-runners themselves are not inherently unique as a genre. They largely feature the same kinds of gameplay. Unfortunately, in that sense, the game doesn’t feel unique, but tying in with the art style is the inherent uniqueness of the game. The world you play in feels unique.
The story beats are transmitted through still images as if taken from the pages of a children’s book. If it weren’t for the art style, I’m not sure if this game would be as stand-out as it is; it goes to show that a job done well is worth the effort. It’s as though the world gets sprinkled with a bit of magic on everything and it keeps the game feeling refreshing. It makes the overall experience feel less like “just another auto runner” and instead it becomes a fulfilling journey.
Additionally, the game offers several different play modes.
Is It Interesting?
Here I want to touch on something more than art style and talk more towards the overall TEXTURE of the game. By texture I mean whether it feels monotonous or whether it feels like it shifts and turns. As I mentioned, you initially start as a red macaw, but as time goes on you encounter different regions and environments which require you to navigate them as different aviary characters. Your cast of characters has an influence on the type of level you’ll experience. The game demonstrates this early on with penguin levels where you spend your time underwater and the game feels flippered, I mean, flipped upside down as you glide through the cool blue waters.
In other worlds, for instance, your navigation of levels require you to focus on timing jumps while you run and flail about ungracefully as a little quail on the ground, as opposed to the fluid and elegant gliding of other birds.
Enemies have enjoyable enough variation, but I think the game sells itself as a world. We oftentimes take a good job for granted; things are dismissed because they meet a mark but don’t manage to blow our minds. In this sense Fledgling Heroes hasn’t blown my mind, but it certainly has warmed my heart.
This is what I refer to as high production value. Whether a game is executing its vision properly and whether a game is polished and cohesive is important regardless of who the game is intended for. I hope no one takes this review as negative because I certainly don’t have any negative feelings towards it, this game is a bargain for its price.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to try out the multiplayer options.
I will have to give a final mention to the level creator which allows the player the freedom to play others’ levels and as share your own as well. While I didn’t get around to making my own level I can say the online levels I tried gave me some added enjoyment.
Fledgling Heroes soars above the rest and delivers an experience that I can enjoy even though I know it isn’t meant for me. When I was younger I used to like finding ways to make games break because I knew games made for children often times weren’t made well; it’s because of this that I can look at a game like Fledgling Heroes and respect what it’s doing and the time that went into it. I have to say that I recommend this game for anyone who is looking to give their kids a game that has what so many other auto runners lack: heart and soul.
Final Verdict: I like it a Lot!