Heroes of Hellas is proof you don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to create a highly polished and fun casual game. Sure, it’s one of those 3-in-a-row gem-swapping games – a la Bejeweled – but it’s played in a different way and weaves in an enjoyable Greek Mythology angle.
Here’s the scoop: Someone has stolen the scepter Zeus holds to control Heaven and Earth, so you must travel through ancient Greece and into Hades, summon help from celebrated heroes – such as Hercules, Icarus and Perseus – find the thief and return the scepter to the almighty ruler of Mount Olympus. On your adventure you’ll learn about Greek mythology, play mini-games and help build a beautiful place (with the help of Hephaestus, the god of the fire of blacksmiths).
The core game-play works as follows. Players are presented with a unique-shaped grid that resembles a 2-D beehive as it’s made up of hexagons (six-sided objects). Insides each of these connected hexagons are colored items such as gems, coins and arrows. Your goal is to click and hold the mouse over a specific object – like a purple arrow or green coin — and move the mouse so that it connects with at least three identical adjacent shapes. When you let go of the mouse, the connected items disappear, making room for new ones that cascade down the screen.
Behind some of these hexagons are gold plates, which are then removed once the object is removed on top of it. The player will finish the level when all gold plates are removed from the board. This must be completed within a predetermined time or else you must repeat the level.
Power-ups also appear on the board – such as a lightning bolt that removes nearby objects or a clock that adds some time to your game – so it’s wise to take advantage of these by using them in your chain.
Just as there are power-ups there are obstacles, such as stones that cannot be moved, and locks and ropes that prevent a gem from being used until you make it part of your chain or remove the gems around it, respectively.
Also, red semiprecious stones will appear on the level. To collect these you must remove the items below it until the stone drops down to an open spot on the level (usually at the bottom) and then will be added to your collection.
Each main level helps you reveal the portrait of a different Greek hero, who can then help you finish the levels going forward. For example, you can unlock Odysseus, who will help you remove gold tiles or semiprecious stones if you collect enough red gems.
After a hero is unlocked you will also be able to play a fun sliding tile mini-game that has you compile a hand-drawn picture of them, which you can then use as Windows wallpaper if you like. This picture, and some info surrounding the hero, is a nice reward for progressing throughout the game.
Other rewards for playing include trophies you can win and view from the main menu (example: "completing seven levels in a row without the help of a hero") and the ability to slowly build a palace by choosing between two sections at a time, such as the kind of columns and pillars, or pathway that leads up to the palace. You can also view your palace in progress from the main menu.
The problem with Heroes of Hellas, though, is I never once needed a hero’s help to remove colored objects, gold tiles or semiprecious stones from the board. While some may argue a game being too easy isn’t a shortcoming – in fact, it’s a good thing for newbie or younger players – it’s pretty hard to lose at this game. In fact, if there are no more moves to make on the board the tiles are automatically reshuffled for you. I also never ran out of time.
Another beef is that there’s only one game mode. Therefore, after you uncover all nine gods and plow through the story there isn’t much incentive to play again – though you can try to beat your "best time" per level.
Overall, however, Heroes of Hellas is a fun and gratifying 3-in-a-row game that, while not a completely fresh experience, decorates it nicely with a Greek mythology theme and adds fun extras such as a mini-game, hero info and wallpaper, trophies and a customizable palace. Kudos to Jaibo Games for a job well done.