Critipeg: Heroes Rise: The Prodigy
Available on Steam and choiceofgames.com, ★★★★☆
In the vast collection of Zachary Sergi’s interactive novels/text-based games, Heroes Rise: The Prodigy is a badass, campy, quirky, queer, drama-filled romp where the player is an up-and-coming superhero who tries to save their city and cultivate their fame.
Released in 2012, this game is the first installment of the Heroes Rise trilogy and plays a significant role in the ever-growing world of the Sergiverse.
The most notable aspect of this game are the abundant queer characters. While a player can customize their character to be queer and have that be reflected in the world of the story (for instance, in the way their friends and family talk to them about their personal life and the romanceable characters that the player has the option to court during the game), there are many side characters who adopt labels on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum in a multitude of ways.
And the best part? They’re the heroes! That said, depending on one’s choices throughout the story, some of those characters might turn on the player. Others might be their allies. However, the versatility in their behaviour is the direct result of the player’s choices.
In this game, the player’s choices not only impact the outcome of the story, but they shape the kind of hero they are to the world. The player builds their persona for the world to scrutinize, and the payoff for their choices can, at times, be punishing or exhilarating. Either way, the outcome is meaningful and earned.
This is due to Sergi’s skill and writing ability. He’s able to balance action-packed drama with hilarity and silliness, while also ensuring the outcomes are appropriate for the decisions made.
Sergi’s characters have depth, are cleverly written and have a knack for challenging the player. At times, the player is forced to reconsider their preconceived notions or opinions regarding difficult (at times, polarizing) topics. No stance is framed as right or wrong, but they always garner a response from the people of the world.
Between fighting evil forces and helping civilians, Sergi guides the player through emotional moments with the side characters. Depending on what the player decides, these moments could be heated or heartful. Antagonistic or endearing. Sometimes, they can be everything all at once.
This makes the replay value of the game especially high. While the characters are fascinating the first time around, during the second playthrough (provided if different choices are made), they reveal different aspects of themselves that make them even more well-rounded.
Ultimately, Heroes Rise: The Prodigy is a great beginning to a three-part super adventure. Most importantly, it’s a fun time! And with the game being free to play (with two-hour breaks between chapters), there’s opportunity to at least try it out and see if it’s worth it to play ’til the end and beyond.
Published in Volume 75, Number 05 of The Uniter (October 8, 2020)