Heave ho Review: We are all just hanging around.


Ahhh party games, a great way to get everyone off their phones and involved in an activity and engaged in talking, laughing and interacting with the room. Add a good portion of co-op goals and you learn some team relationship bonding... or friendships will get seriously tested. Heave Ho rides the line between  eye popping laughter and frustration and at times seems to cross it. But whichever way you look at it, it will become a talking point of the evening and probably a long time after that. 



What is it ?
Heave Ho is a physics based puzzle game released by Independent studio, Le Cartel and standout indie publisher Devolver Digital. Your goal is to traverse a treacherous landscape with a character consisting of nothing more than an oddly shaped head with a pair of long arms attached to it.  Though it can be played single player, the game really shines in multiplayer form. Work together with up to four players to reach the goal on the other side and on the way try not to fall down or get popped by hazards along the way. 



Gameplay
In Heave Ho, it is all about grabbing on and holding tight, swinging yourself and your team mates across the screen towards your goal. The shoulder buttons on the controllers become an extension of your onscreen hands and you squeeze tight to hold on for dear life. With your analog sticks you need to move arms to grab, pull and swing across the hazards in the level, which often means not plummeting down. If you do miss, then you end with a colorful paint splash that decorates the level more and more each time you fail. You are not out of the game but will reappear from the top of the screen at the start of the level. Which means you can leave your partner hanging and waiting, and at times force them to backtrack themselves or just jump down and start over as well.


Navigating through the level is hard enough, and one would think that teamwork can improve your chances of success dramatically. But in Heave Ho, adding more people can be a hinderance. It is often not enough to just rush ahead and wait for the rest to follow. You are encouraged to work together and communicate in what it is you are trying to do. Who jumps first, catch the other person, drag a level coin with you towards the goal for extra bonus awards at the end must be worked out and more. You will find yourself soon bending over in laughter because of the crazy situations you encounter during the game. Your fight or flight response gets set off as you desperately try not to fall down as you move through increasingly more difficult terrains. Challenge accepted! However the laughter can also turn to grunts of frustration as you retry that last jump for the last gazillion time and it is always  that one person who does not listen, follow the plan or just is terrible at this game. Needless to say, Heave Ho is not a game for people who like a quiet house or who have thin walls and cranky neighbors. Whether it is laughter or exclamations of displeasure, the volume will be on 11. 


Presentation
The game is colorful and goofy. With the addition of crazy sound effects and music the entire thing is as zany as it comes.  Playing on the small screen can be a bit difficult to see  what you are doing, however it is sufficient but it will be better on the TV. Levels start easy enough but soon can become very tough, but if you are stuck and take too long to complete a challenge the game will start adding things to the level to help you out. This is a nice feature because you get to move on and see things beyond the level that you are stuck on. You can always return to it later to get a better score. At other times the game has a rope appear, that when pulled it actually activates an additional mini game for everyone. This is intended to sidetrack you from what you were doing and after which you continue with your journey. I even saw a llama trot across the screen at some point and am still not sure if we should take a ride or avoid at all costs. But it was surely good for a laugh.


The game offers unlock-able features for your characters as you complete levels and challenges. From different gloves to hats and wigs, beards even a full Santa suit. There is something for everyone to personalize their character. One such way to unlock great costumes is to bring a coin you find on a level to the end point. This is harder than it looks because you have to hold on to it as you go across. So you better rely on your buddy to catch you as you jump or climb. Or perhaps you can throw it and hope they catch it. It is all up to you and your team. Once you have collected a coin, or a few, then you can use them at the in-game vending machine to collect goodies.


Parent Recommendation
As a parent I can recommend Heave Ho for all ages, it is a great game to play, share and watch being played. You can pass the controller if you have more than four players, just so someone can take a small break and cool down a bit. Just in time before any real frustration sets in. It takes hand eye coordination and puzzle solving ingenuity to complete each level and there can be more then one way to do so. The violence amounts to the characters exploding with colorful paint and a funny sound. Nothing graphic or scary in any way.


Overall Recommendation 
Overall Heave Ho is a steal for the price, though "only" nine multi part levels, they present a tough challenge and offers hours of fun that you can play over and over.  It is almost natural to use the switch joy cons but you definitely want to add the strap add on for extra comfort on the shoulder buttons. For larger hands, it might be beneficial to get larger controllers such as the pro or add a joy con grip. If you feel like a night full of belly laughs or testing your friendships (just kidding) then Heave Ho can be a much played addition to your library. So put away the phones, turn the TV to the game input and hold on for dear life.




Game information:
Title: Heave Ho
Developer: Le Cartel Studios
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release date: August 29, 2019 
Platforms: PC(Steam), Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
ESRB: E for Everyone ( Mild Fantasy Violence)

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