Rent-A-Hero is an example of adventure game as art. The plot is yet another hackneyed retelling of the ultimate battle between good and evil. You, as Rodrigo, rent out your services to rescue princesses. Unfortunately, there's not much money in it, and the other rental heroes get much better jobs than you. Fortunately for you, a dwarf needs someone to find his wife, and all of the other heroes are completely booked up, so you get the job by default. Well, finding the dwarf's wife is just the beginning of your quest to defeat the ultimate evil mentioned above and save the world. While the plot is tried and true, it is rendered in a refreshing manner.
The graphics in Rent-A-Hero are, simply put, stunning. In fact, I wanted to use all of my multitudes of screenshots because I had such a hard time choosing a few. The cutscenes are breathtaking, and the care that was taken in drawing the backgrounds was very evident. It consists of 3D characters on 2D backgrounds, in what the developers call 2.5D. Not since The Neverhood have I seen a game that was as pleasurable just to watch, and the backgrounds were at least as good as those in the Broken Sword games. The characters were drawn in such a way that they had, well, character, and even the ugly ones were extremely appealing. I could gush for another couple of paragraphs about the beauty of this game, but then I'd have to get out my thesaurus to find new words for fantastic, and it's not worth the effort, so just take a look at the screenshots above to get a taste for yourself.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward. You click on stuff to interact with it in whatever way, be it speaking or using or picking up, and you usually have a small inventory, although this is not what I would call an inventory-oriented game. There is also a fair bit of conversation, but mostly there is figuring stuff out. All of the puzzles are integrated into the plot to the extent that you don't really realize you are even doing puzzles. The game is pretty easy for the seasoned adventurer, which is a big minus for me because I really didn't want it to end quite so soon. I had to actually muddle through the whole game myself without any hints, in what must be a first for me. I was kind of proud of myself, but in reality, if you get stuck, you can just go look at everything and click on everything again and something's bound to change.
The music is fantastic. It was recorded by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and each piece exactly suits its scene. There is enough variety and the pieces are long enough that the music never gets old, and I lingered in a couple of spots just to listen a bit longer.
Rent-A-Hero was originally produced in German and later translated to English, and the voice acting was, surprisingly enough, perfect, even down to the lip-synching being, well, in sync. Rodrigo, the hero, was a nice-guy, well-meaning-but-nevertheless-bumbling, mild-mannered Milquetoast sort of character, bringing to mind the English actor Hugh Grant. Usually, in even the finest of adventure games (as well as Disney animated features), there is always at least one character that is totally over the top - not so in Rent-A-Hero (a welcome relief to your easily annoyed reviewer).
Sound effects were also perfect - but hard to describe in this or any review. I might just start omitting any discussion of sound effects in my future reviews, but this is the part where the sound effects are traditionally discussed so I guess I am fulfilling my mission.
All in all, this is the nicest game I have had the pleasure to play in quite some time, and it was a welcome surprise in this drought of adventure games. The only major drawbacks were that it was too short and too easy. However, it would be a good introduction to adventure gaming for those who have never tried it before.
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