Game: Step By Step Hero
Genre: Walking Sim, Adventure
System: Steam (Windows; also on itch.io)
Controller Support: Full
Price: US $1.99 | UK £1.69 | EU € 1,79
Release Date: October 24th, 2022
Review code provided with many thanks to PixelSlop.
Step By Step Hero is a short walking sim from a small indie dev called PixelSlop. This appears to be PixelSlop’s first title, and it feels very much like a first title.
The Gameplay and Story of Step By Step Hero
Basically, you are on a quest to save the world from corruption. Monsters have invaded the land, and you have to buff yourself up until you can win against the monsters, and eventually the heart of the corruption itself. There are three levels of play:
Each level extends the times between upgrades, makes the steps mean more, and other upgraded challenges. In order to complete the game on easy or fair (the two difficulties I played on), you had to upgrade your little man to level 60 to defeat the final boss.
You meet a variety of people along the way from a shepherd who has lost her sheep, a travelling merchant, a man who wants gems, and a fairy. Most of these NPCs are here to help you or ask you for a favour.
The gameplay of Step By Step Hero is basically a step counter. Players have a little man that they have to wander around the world with, and his steps are massively limited. This little guy will “die” when he runs out of steps, returning players to the centre of the map with half their coins are taken away.
Players need to open chests, blow up blocked cave entrances, and defeat enemies in order to earn more HP. Each point of HP adds up in the upper left-hand corner; this is what determines whether the little main character can defeat an enemy or not. If his total possible HP is higher than the enemy he is fighting, he will defeat it just by walking into it.
The little feet plants refill 10 steps each, and players can collect coins in order to pay for items and help along the way. You must keep walking from biome to biome until you get enough HP to finish off the corruption at its source.
One of the weirdest parts of this game is the map; it appears to be randomly generated; each time you move to a new screen, you are in a new place, and you cannot head back to the place you were by backtracking. The forest (levels 20-25) is always to the right, the snowy (level 30-35) location is always north, the swamp (40-45) is to the left, and the desert (50-55) is to the south. Sort of.
Randomly Generated Maps + Limited Steps = No Thanks
Let me tell you, the random map generation is annoying. You start walking and you’re pretty sure you’re walking in the right general direction to get to the swamp, but then it just kind of doesn’t appear for a while. Then you have to walk into the desert to then walk into the plains or something like that. It was infuriating; I’m trying to do this with limited steps, people.
But once you got the hang of it, it gets easier, right? No, not really.
The random maps just make what should be a nice little walking sim really annoying. In my opinion, the developers should have chosen either the random map OR the step limitations; the game isn’t fun with both. The random map would be more interesting without the step counter, but the step counter doesn’t add anything to the game at all. When a game is telling me to explore, and then limits my steps for no reason, it’s not fun.
Not to mention that elements of the UI hide essential items like sheep, chests, and more. But I can’t afford the steps half the time to backtrack to try and get them.
I will say that the addition of the items does help some; there are “Extra Steps” that give you 10 more steps for each one used and Horseshoes that give you ten whole seconds of step-counter-free walking. But the balance of steps to items doesn’t feel great.
Especially since the game gives players little “puzzles” that make you walk halfway across the world and back just for like a single seed in a chest. That coupled with the monsters that always *just* slip away from you as you walk into them and the NPCs that constantly stand right where you want to be, you end up wasting a ton of steps.
Also, when playing without a controller, getting the menu open and closed is a little annoying. The game makes you play with the arrows (not WASD) AND the mouse, which is super awkward. The standard keybindings should be rethought, mostly because you don’t seem to be able to change them.
All this coupled with a music loop that would drive any person insane within like five minutes, I did not have much fun playing Step By Step Hero.
The Pros of Step By Step Hero
That being said, it wasn’t all bad. The graphics are a delight. I love the whole original Game Boy look that Step By Step Hero employed. It’s a beautiful game that has a lot of polish in it. The monster and NPC movements are beautiful and smooth, and the transitions between screens flow like butter from one to the next. Everything is perfectly outlined and defined; I never once stared at the screen wondering if that was a tree, a rock, or an NPC like I do with some very pixelated games.
Other than one glitch that launched me across the map and made NPCs un-interactable until I moved screens, it ran very well. The game is well thought through. Each biome is distinct, the critters’ numbers are easy to read, and there is a kind of charm to the world.
Step By Step Hero has a lot of heart in it. You can tell it’s a pet project that someone poured a lot of thought into. But like many loved projects, this one suffers from what feels like a lack of play testing. There is so much going for this game, and it could be really fun if it weren’t for the step counter. It is incredibly difficult to make a walking simulator, and this one just missed the mark.
With all that being said, I am looking forward to PixelSlop’s next title. I’d be interested to see what this developer has learned from making Step By Step Hero and what changes they plan to make in their next title.
Final Verdict: I Don’t Like it.