So, there's this princess, and she's pretty hot. And this evil dragon abducted her, and now she's stuck on top of a tower, with only a creepy talking skeleton to keep her company. And, guess what, it's your job to save her! How original, I know. To do that, you will have to beat a ton of monsters in a match-3 game. Match-3 to the death, I say! Okay, that last bit caught you by surprise - admit it.
That's the back-story for I Need a Hero, and it explains why you'll find yourself frantically swiping your screen, matching sequences of pumpkins, monsters, sheep, and what-not, while evil witches and angry bulls cast spells at you or attack you in all sorts of painful ways. Amr Ayman recommended I Need a Hero in his Games to DIE for channel, and got me hooked on the game. In Amr's words:
Tired of bejeweled match 3? Welcome to join 3! Join pieces to charge your hero's attack and save your princess. RPG elements as you gain EXP and craft items.
I Need a Hero borrows some RPG elements: The game is played on a map, with weaker enemies first. As you defeat an enemy, you unlock the next one in the chain -- or you can come back to that same enemy you just beat, and try again at a tougher difficulty level.
Defeating enemies gets you stars. Stars unlock potential upgrades for your character's weapons and shields, but just because an upgrade is unlocked doesn't mean you can use it. Each upgrade requires an arbitrary number of other items to make: To craft a protective breastplate, you'll need 2000 coins, a bundle of books, and three skulls. To get those items you'll have to complete other missions. If that sounds convoluted, well, it is. It's also addictive.
I Need a Hero becomes less addictive once you realize just how difficult it is to get ahead in the game without shelling out for its paid items. That's the real challenge in a free-to-play game: Can it keeps things fun even if you don't pay up? I Need a Hero stayed quite enjoyable for the first four hours I played it, and then the obvious need for an upgrade became painful enough that I had to pay a buck for a bunch of in-game diamonds, so I could finally craft the item I needed.
That said, this isn't necessarily the same experience everyone will have: My wife is a match-3 wizard, and she managed to get very far ahead in the game without spending a dime (and while becoming completely addicted to it, humming the soundtrack in idle moments). If you're really fast at match-3 games, you may be able to get ahead farther than I did before you feel the need for a paid upgrade.
I Need a Hero uses cartoonish graphics which exude high production values. It's clear a lot of work went into creating the art for this game, and the style is both distinct and consistent. The colors used for the various items you need to match are different enough to be colorblind-friendly, and the map is beautifully detailed and fun to interact with.
The sound is refreshingly nice, with effects that make exploding power-ups extra-satisfying.
I Need a Hero is a fun game, if you don't mind shelling out a few bucks for virtual goods, or if you're just really brilliant at match-3 games. If, like me, you're both stingy and mediocre, you may have to find another game.