Review: Lockdown Hero, Filipino-developed COVID-19-inspired game

How are you spending lockdown so far? Some have been trying to learn new skills (like cooking and baking), some are working from home, many are bingeing their favorite shows on Netflix. But one guy decided to use his time to develop the very first COVID-19-inspired game.

“All I did during the lockdown was play games. After I got so bored with my games, it hit me: ‘If I were to create a game, it’s going to be like this,’” shares Jergens Correa, the guy behind Brick Geek Games. 

Instead of wallowing in pity at the sordid state of our country because of the virus, Jergs went on full gear and turned the pandemic into a fun, addicting new game. “I love creating unique concepts, things that have never been done before. So I ran with the lockdown concept since I knew it was going to be a very timely and unique game.”

And so, Lockdown Hero was born. 

The development

Jergs learned Unity, the software he used to develop Lockdown Hero, only in April. As a 3D animator, Jergs was familiar with a software similar to Unity, making his learning curve much shorter. Learning a new platform in such a short amount of time is impressive enough—but coming out of it with a new game is a different level altogether. Many YouTube tutorial videos and five sleepless weeks later, Jergs was ready with Lockdown Hero.

Jergs developed the whole game by himself—from the ground up—in just a little over a month. His only “colleague” is his 9-year-old daughter who helped him as the voice actor and beta tester. The game is not perfect, of course, and needs a lot of fine-tuning. But for a one-man-team’s five-week project, we can say it’s pretty impressive. 

In fact, more than an enjoyable game, Lockdown Hero is an inspiration for many aspiring developers out there who are hoping to make their very own game someday.

“Anything is possible,” Jergs says. “If someone like me can make a game all by himself, like most of the successful indie game developers out there, then you can do it, too. Just remember to enjoy the journey. Use every milestone of success as a source of motivation and inspiration.”

The game

Okay, so let’s get down to business. In Lockdown Hero you play the role of a boy whose city is under the threat of a virus. This virus is strewn out across the city and will attack when you get close enough. Your job is to find the cure to eradicate the virus by exploring the city, making friends, completing events, exploring the nearby island, and unlocking new capabilities for your character.

You spawn and start your day inside your home, where you can take a bath (hygiene is key in a pandemic!) and pick up some alcohol. Alcohol is your main defense against the virus, like some sort of water gun to defeat them when they start to attack. Alcohol can be picked up in the streets and can also be bought in exchange for toilet paper. 

Just like in the real world, toilet paper has become valuable in the game’s world. It has become the city’s main currency, which you use to trade to acquire new things and capabilities as you go on. Toilet paper and alcohol are strewn all over the city for you to collect—but beware, because there’s always a nasty little virus waiting to jump on you whenever you get too busy collecting your essentials.

A city full of puzzles

The gameplay is pretty straightforward. Walk around to collect stuff and talk to people so that you get to know more about the city and maybe find a way to rid it of the virus. Take too long and the virus will mutate, making it harder to walk around. 

Once a virus touches you, you die. And this virus means business! It can creep up on you when you least expect it, it can fall from the sky, it can chase you from a block away, and more than one can come after you all at once. It may get frustrating as you go along, since you can keep dying.

What makes the repetitive dying and spawning worth it, however, are the new things you unlock and discover around the city. You’ll get to meet interesting NPCs (non-player characters) who may remind you to “wear a mask” or “beware of the brown cat,” and some who will give you quests in exchange for something cool like a pair of awesome kicks that can grant you speed. 

Without giving away too much, there’s also the classic “accompany the NPC” event where a girl asks to be taken back to her home. The first time I tried accompanying her, I used her as a shield against the virus and she died. That was hilarious to watch—until the virus came for me after it attacked her. There are also hidden NPCs in back alleys, asking for exorbitant amounts of alcohol and toilet paper. It may take a lot of tries before you manage to give them what they want, but most of the time it’s worth the hassle.

There are also objects around the city that you can interact with. I saw a soccer ball and a soccer net in a graveyard that’s basically begging to be scored, and a random box that you can open for some free alcohol or a surprise virus attack. 

I also can’t stress enough how interesting the city is as a huge puzzle. You’re given no rules, no directions, just the daily mail that gives cryptic hints like “the beach is helpful” or “a boy is looking for his lost ball.” Good luck trying to make sense of its tips before getting distracted by a random unopenable chest or a group of dancing black guys carrying a coffin. 

There’s also a neighboring island that I suggest you explore earlier on in the game. I won’t give away too much, but it unlocks new abilities and clothes for your character that will be very useful in defeating the virus. 

It also adds an extra layer of complexity to the game, as if you’re transported into an early version of Harvest Moon and you’re suddenly surrounded by a field of beautiful flowers, you’re cutting oak trees for the lumber man, you’re planting seeds for the farmer, and you’re making friends with a ghost who hasn’t talked to a human in 120 years. Yes, it can get that wild. 

Mobile version vs PC version

Lockdown Hero is currently available for download on the Google App store for Android smartphones and on Steam for PC. The mobile version is free, while the PC version on Steam costs P399.95. 

If you can afford the full game and want to experience it in its full glory, get the PC version. The mobile version’s controls are a bit clunky and it doesn’t come with the island—which is half of the fun of the game, we promise! And who prefers mobile gaming anyway? (Please don’t tag us as gamer elitists! PC gaming is just superior. Okay, maybe we’re a bit elitist…)

But getting back to our point, don’t be discouraged by how frustrating the mobile version can be. The full PC version has so much more to give, so it’s really worth giving it a shot.

The verdict

The concept of this game is astounding. As Jergs described it, he imagined a game he wanted to play and built it—and his creative mind and passion for gaming has indeed shone through Lockdown Hero. Keep in mind that it will get very frustrating—but that just makes it addicting. You just want to try and try again even though you keep dying because of those pesky floating viruses. How very apt for a game modeled after this pesky pandemic, indeed.

As an indie game that’s developed in such a short time, you have to expect bugs here and there. But if I didn’t know that this was put up in five weeks by a man of pure talent and dedication, I honestly would peg it at a few months by a small indie group. Jergs has really outdone himself in this game, and we urge everyone to buy the full version on Steam to give him some incentive to keep developing it. Give this game a few bug catchers and I’m pretty sure it’ll be ready to infect the whole world. 

Words Jovi Figueroa

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