Loop Hero hit like a wildfire earlier this year. There wasn't a gaming podcast around that didn't go on and on and on about how great this game was, even though it sounded like it played itself. Eventually, I heard enough praise that I picked it up and fell in love. I played a bunch of it on my computer, but way more by streaming it to my iPad. It was a great game, but I knew that where it really belonged was on the Switch.
I'm happy to say that I've now spent more time playing the Switch version than I ever did the PC release, and it is nearly perfect.
Loop Hero is a Game You Don't Quite Play
I'm going to do my best to explain how you play Loop Hero. Basically, it's a game about typical JRPG grinding. A lonely hero walks around over and over again, getting into battles over and over again in order to earn new gear and abilities that marginally increase their stats in order to battle better. It's typical… except that it's nothing like a JRPG.
You see, you don't play as the hero in Loop Hero. In fact, you don't really play as anyone. The hero walks a predetermined loop all on their own. They get into battles, attack, use potions… and do everything else all on their own. As the player, you don't control the hero at all, except to equip them with new gear as they earn it, trying to find a perfect combination of stat boosts.
Controlling the Loop
The control that you do have is over the world around the hero. At the start of each rogue-lite run, the hero is on a road in a blank void. You draw cards as time goes on that you can place on or around the road in order to change the hero's journey. Putting a cemetery down will spawn skeletons which can be dangerous, but come with bigger rewards.
Each piece of terrain you drop changes the experience of your hero very precisely. You can predict exactly what each card will do… except for when you can't. There are a lot of specific ways that terrain cards can interact with each other that you won't know until they hit. I don't actually want to describe any of these because discovering them on your own is a lot of fun. As a very basic example, each mountain or rock that you drop gives your hero a little bit of extra HP, but too many of them will cause a goblin camp to appear.
It's a very simple, very zen-inducing game to play. Early in a loop especially, this is a great passive, multitasking game. You can put this game on while watching TV pretty easily.
Loop Hero Feels Perfect on Switch
The biggest hesitation I had about Loop Hero coming to Switch was the controls. The PC version of the game is basically entirely controlled with the mouse. That made it translate to an iPad using Steam Link really nicely and those same touch controls work great on the Switch's screen, but it also works perfectly with a controller.
The Switch version of the game has a button to press for each separate section of the interface. Pressing one trigger will snap your cursor straight to the hero's gear, while another goes straight to the terrain cards in your hand. There are also shortcuts for the other parts of the screen, but those two are the ones you'll use the most, and it becomes second nature almost immediately
I really dig Loop Hero, and it feels like a perfect fit on the Switch. The gameplay seems like it was designed with the handheld in mind, and the controls were mapped to it absolutely perfectly. I really can't recommend this game enough, even though it's a really hard game to describe. The moment-to-moment gameplay is wonderful. The meta progression (which I'm not getting into because I don't want to spoil it) is super satisfying. The story (which I'm not getting into because I don't want to spoil it), is really, really intriguing.
This game is wonderful and weird. Just go play it!
Geek to Geek Rating: 5 out of 5 passive stars
Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you about the major flaw, didn't I?! It's almost embarrassing because this port is so good except for this one detail that just completely ruins the whole experience. I mean, you can spend all this time taking a great game and making it fit perfectly into a new form factor, and then… it all just goes to waste because a missed detail ruins everything.
So what is it? What's the big problem that breaks Loop Hero on the Switch? The icon for Loop Hero on the Switch home screen has a single row of white pixels along the bottom.
I know, right? It's devastating. I'm not sure they can even fix a mistake like this with a patch. Horrifying.