Million to One Hero review

Million To One Hero Review

Write your own history.

Million To One Hero isn’t a platformer with a level editor; it is a level editor. That is, the entire game is made up of player-created levels with a handful of Over The Top Games’ own creations once you move past the tutorial stage. That’s by no means a bad thing, and the narrative of this Grecian adventure accounts for the fantastic variety of gameplay experiences you will encounter as you traverse the memories of fabled God Aegis and live the life of fearless warrior Epicus.

However, it’s a risky move. While it’s certainly excellent to play, it might need a wider player base to see things really take off. Thankfully, this scenario looks likely, given that Million To One Hero is incredibly satisfying to dig your keyboard into, both in its platforming and its level creation studio.

We start our adventure with a slap of wry humour, as Aegis explains how he holds the ability to recall memories from all of time and space. From there, we’re introduced to Epicus, the hero of our story. We’re told that in the course of Million To One Hero, we will be dipping in and out of Epicus’s amazing feats of heroism and creating our own to upload to Aegis’s database.

We play a few tutorial levels, and it’s immediately obvious how sophisticated the simplistic design of each movement is. There are only four buttons to worry about here, aside from the usual D-pad navigation. Use A to jump, S to dash, D to swing your mighty sword, and E to use your secondary equipped weapon. It’s a refreshing approach to platforming that generates one of the most powerful creative tools in game design: mechanic limitation.

Rather than mashing your way through a level, or using that OP weapon you discovered right at the start to cheat your way through, Million To One Hero prides itself on the almost puzzle-solving nature of its design. The fact that this nature runs so deeply even into its level editor is a testament to the power of its simplicity, and the thoughtful approach to keeping options slim and possibilities endless.

We’ve already said that this is a game built around its level editor, so that level editor has to stand up. And it does, in most ways. Your first levels might get off to a rocky start, what with the pixelated graphical nature of the game making certain objects and enemies difficult to recognise and their functions even trickier to ascertain. But once you’ve played through the wealth of unique experiences on offer, the inspiration starts flowing and the depth of this tool becomes apparent. There are handy descriptions of each object in the toolbar along the top of your screen, but often knowing how to use the power you’ve been provided with comes from witnessing how others have wielded it.

Many of the levels currently published revolve around the hitting of levers to open up blocked entrances, allowing you to progress and solve each level piece by piece. It’s certainly an interesting mechanic, but it’s obvious that players are the most comfortable with using it primarily because it was featured heavily in the tutorial gameplay. Other levels that feature weapons, blocks, abilities, and enemies not featured in this tutorial are slowly beginning to crop up as players spend more time with the game, but a touch more direction on the use of the lovingly crafted features of this powerful tool would open up a world of gameplay we’re currently not yet seeing. It’s a tricky situation, but when you release a game that relies on community engagement to function, it’s necessary to show these players how to get the most out of your world.

That being said, Million To One Hero really is a joy to physically play. Jumps and navigation are smooth, with buttery transitions between moves and a gleaming traversal of the game world making every manoeuvre feel refined. Just spend some time mastering the jump and diagonal dash combo to understand just how satisfying this gameplay can be. Once these controls are mastered they are simple enough to quickly become second nature, meaning you can sit back and watch yourself scaling each level beautifully. It’s by no means easy, but it’s natural and responsive and those are the two best weapons to have in your tool belt when it comes to challenging platformers.
Many are comparing Million To One Hero to Mario Maker, and with good reason. The two are comparable in their level design experience, even down to the user interface and design language. However, there’s a depth of creation here that’s just not available in our favourite plumber’s plastic drag-and-drop room. You can experience this depth with computational logic gates, a roster of interactive items and objects triggering various different inputs and outputs, and even shrines and powerups that provide your hero with exactly what he needs to progress further. But the real originality of Million To One Hero’s offering is the elements of story you can weave into every creation.
Create an Adventure, a collection of levels that tell a story, to weave your own narrative and design a full platformer experience. Use NPCs and dialogue boxes to tell this story, and have players enter whatever game world you want to create. Playing through these levels feels almost liberating; it’s a world created by your fellow players, hundreds of insights into the community around you all told through the same tools that you have at your own disposal. Each new beginning is a breath of fresh air, and there’s plenty of originality to come.
While it’s a shame there isn’t a strictly linear story to speak of here, as Over The Top Games’ self-referential humour feels especially missing once the tutorial curtains close, it’s exciting to be a part of a game in which every level you create is an addition to the story of Million To One Hero. And that’s the crux of the game. It’s a tool designed to give players the power in determining the ‘memories of Aegis’, of determining the fate of our hero, and of dictating just how that fate plays out, a game that players design themselves with the support of an immensely detailed level studio.
While it remains to be seen if it will survive a player lull, and whether new players from all walks of life will be comfortable diving into a level editor that, while packed with features, doesn’t know how to explain those possibilities, as it stands today, Million To One Hero is a solid time sink to get those creative juices flowing.
[Reviewed on PC]