Impressions: 12 Labours of Hercules I-III

12 Labours of Hercules is a pretty long-running indie puzzle/time management series that started in 2015. I don’t normally do Impressions of multiple games in one piece, but due to the length of the games – short but also relatively good price point for the length – I thought I would just put the three that I have thus far in one.

The overall gameplay is pretty much the same in each game. Each level is a map, and on the map, you have a number of resources and obstacles on set paths. You have to send out your servants (I will be calling them workers) to pick up resources, remove anything in the way, and build things that can get you more resources or help you move around the map more easily. Each level has a goal. Sometimes it is to collect a lot of resources, sometimes it is to clear the path to the end of the map, various things of that nature. Everything you do requires that you pay resources, though, so you have to manage both collecting and what you spend on and in what order. Every 10th level is a minigame level that will have you do things like fight off enemies by clicking on them or just expanded versions of the other levels. You also get abilities on most levels with things like having your workers move faster, or get more resources, etc.

It might sound like a lot, but it is pretty simple. That is not an insult, and once you get the basic flow, you will find yourself having an enjoyable but not overly challenging time on most levels.

The stories are really basic and, to be honest, don’t always make sense. They are related to various myths but, more often than not, are just there to separate each level grouping. At this point in the series, everything is still fairly related to Greek Mythology but obviously with a lot of stretches. The third game does start to veer off into other areas a bit, and later in the series, it seems like this becomes fairly common.

Mostly though, this is clicking the screen, paying attention to what resources you have, and what order you choose to tackle things in. I like games like this. There is enough thought process to make it, so you aren’t just lazily zoning out while playing, but you get more into a flow rather than being stressed by the challenge. It’s also the type of game that is great to play, maybe if you are listening to a podcast or something. The games have more similarities than differences, but there are a few changes, so I will briefly touch on each.

12 Labours of Hercules

For obvious reasons, this is the most simple of the games. It builds a good foundation, though, and gave a lot of room to add things later, some of which I liked, some I did not. The story is that Hades captures Megara, and you have to go get her back. It’s the one that I think the story flowed the most and felt the most “greek mythology,” even though it’s a bit out there. It slowly introduces features like using Medusa on the map to help chase off enemies and even having Pegasus help. There is a decent flow for how things are introduced, and the minigames aren’t bad. You also unlock fun little things on the map for achievements and getting a gold rating on each of the levels. While the other games added a few features, this was honestly the one I think is the most fun. Something about it just felt a bit more together or enjoyable than the other two, even though I liked all three.

12 Labours of Hercules II: The Cretan Bull

This one adds a couple of features, like thieves who will take resources off the map and outposts so that your workers don’t have to run back to the one base the entire time you are on the map. Not every map has an outpost, but when you do have them, it does save a little time from your workers running around. It also added puzzle pieces, and if you complete the puzzle for each grouping, you get a bonus level. However, it removed automatic resource adding from buildings. In the first game, if you built a farm, some of them would just automatically add food during production, some would require you to pick it up. All of them require picking it up in this and the third game. It’s… it gives you more to do, but it increases the tedium in a game that is already just clicking around. The story is, odd. You are chasing the Cretan Bull after stealing it, but it loses the flow that the first had. It introduces a new special character to use during some levels. All in all, I liked that it had a bit more than the first but the first edges it out overall.

12 Labours of Hercules III: Girl Power

This was sadly my least favorite. The story seems to be about rescuing Hercules this time, but you find him, then lose him, then find him, then just have a random ending. Megara can help grow trees on each level for food production, but a few of the special characters are missing. This game also did away with adding fun stuff to the map for gold levels, and instead, you slowly build up a castle each time you get one, which is alright. It keeps the puzzle pieces and bonus levels which is fun. However, and this was a big problem for me, there are levels that depend entirely on using the extra resource ability. As in, you cannot beat them without using it and at the right time. One level involved just sitting there waiting for enough time to pass to get it before even starting. On another level, you need a lot (and I mean A LOT) of wood, so you have to once again do the extra resource ability, but you can only hold 20 pieces at a time. This did not feel like adding challenge, just tedium. It is still a pretty fun game, but I was disappointed to end the three on this note.

All in all, they are pretty fun games, though. While the third was my least favorite, I would still rank them all relatively close together if I were to do a number ranking. They aren’t mind-blowing games, but they are good at what they are, short little puzzle games that are fun. The art is decent, the music gets a bit repetitive, but you can turn it off.

On the negative side, these games are short. Disappointingly so, really, but that’s more because I wanted to keep playing rather than feeling like they are a ripoff. I averaged less than 12 hours for each of them, and once you are finished, there is not a great deal of replayability. They do have different difficulties, but I just didn’t feel overly compelled to replay the same maps. Some people might disagree, but for me, I can’t imagine going back frequently. Still, the older games are 3 bucks apiece, so it’s not terribly expensive for the amount of time I put in.

Bottom line? It really depends on if you are the type of person that likes sort of time-wasting games like this. They aren’t my main type of gaming, but they can be a lot of fun at times and a good palate cleanser between more difficult games. I also really enjoy again that they are challenging enough that I wasn’t just zoning out but could play while listening to podcasts or watching something that didn’t require my full focus. If you are looking for that, I do recommend them. If not, well, I don’t think they are compelling enough to grab most people not looking for that type of game. I hope to enjoy more of them in the future, but while each one is not overly expensive alone, they do start to add up.

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