Say what you will about multiplayer-focused games, but you have to admit that playing with friends is always fun. Heave Ho’s incredibly simple premise and easy to pick up gameplay make it one of the best games of that kind I’ve played in years. Simply put, it’s going to be a permanent part of my Switch library as long as I have someone to play it with.
The whole idea behind Heave Ho is getting yourself and up to three other players to the finish flag in one piece somehow. You play as a colorful creature by controlling each of their hands separately by pressing the bumpers on your controller. By holding one near a shape on screen, or better yet — a handy buddy of yours who might be close-by — you instantly hold on to them, and by swinging your toon’s body, you build momentum, allowing you to keep on the move.
I got to play Heave Ho in the company of my significant other, who hardly plays any games outside of a few Android farming sims here and there, and even so, she quickly picked up the basics of the game, and although we mostly did terribly, we had a blast. Heave Ho is just so friendly to play that repeatedly constantly falling to our splashing deaths worked in complete opposition to how it would usually in any game other than this — we kept laughing our butts off all the way.
It helps that the level design in the game is just so smartly done. Le Cartel Studio adapted all of them to be playable regardless of how many players are swinging around, but I really believe that having more than one person playing makes them that more fun to get through. Even though I mostly played with a partner in tow, I tried taking a few of them on my own, and it was a much drier experience. Heave Ho is by no means unplayable by yourself, but interacting with the people you’re playing with makes the whole thing that much better.
Trust me, having my girlfriend say “let’s play more of this!” without any coaxing from my part is very rare, and it happened more than once ever since I’ve introduced her to Heave Ho. Even though we have not completed the entire level set for this, I’m more than sure that we’ll conquer it very soon. It’s easy to get carried away by the chaos of trying to cooperate our way through the platforming puzzles throughout the game, too, and more than I’d care to count, we totally blew past what I’m sure is Le Cartel’s lenient level completion times, because they basically threw a bone and covered gaps with a climbable vine in a handful of our levels. Thankfully, we didn’t mind this at all, and it added to the hilarity of just how clumsy our play was at all of the times that happened.
There’s more to Heave Ho than simply being silly. If you decide to take things a little more seriously, you can try and take the coins you start running into to the end of levels in order to spend them on The Machine, where new costumes and silly articles can be unlocked in order to customize your little blob. Getting these coins through to the end isn’t as easy as it sounds, and so far, I’ve only gotten a couple of them cross the flag!
It’s also fun to notice little details like the music changes as you progress through a session, increasing the number of instruments the further you get during co-op, up until the screen tally screen before the next set of levels start popping up. It’s clear that the devs had a great time working on this game, keeping it very light and friendly through and through.
For someone like myself who tackles an ungodly number of reviews all year, Heave Ho is a joyful experience that’s really been working as a palate cleanser as I work through my backlog of creative content for the site. It’s also great to finally have a common ground in videogame terms with my significant other, something that I had yet to find up to this point. Maybe this is the beginning of a wonderful and growing career in gaming for her? If that doesn’t come to fruition, at least we can have some fun being silly playing this game. I couldn’t ask for a better excuse for us to break out our JoyCons for.