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Loop Hero inverts what you are used to paying attention to in a game

Loop Hero is an auto-battler, which means it plays itself, leaving your hands free to stroke a dog or learn the ukulele. Press "go" and your hero will scuttle off like a locomotive on a train set, encountering monsters, slaughtering them in quick, uninteractive battle scenes, collecting the loot and cards they drop and then continuing on their fated way.

This customisation comes in the form of cards that you receive from killing enemies. These cards will be randomly selected from the deck that you have chosen (more on this later) and can offer various benefits or changes to the loop. Some cards are purely beneficial whereas some offer a choice of risk versus reward. Cards can also be used in synergy with each other and the mastery of these synergies is the key to beating the game.

You create your world using the cards, and each one means something different for your hero. Placing mountains raises your maximum hit points, for example. Each meadow tile you place earns you two hit points back at the end of each in-game day, which cycle past pretty rapidly. Those are the good cards. You also have to place cards that will spawn more enemies in the loop, but crucially, you can decide where you place those cards and how near they are to other cards. Once you put enough squares on the board, the boss appears.

But, there are times in Loop Hero when your balance is completely off, forcing your hero to high-tail it back to camp or dooming them in the form of a grisly death. Rebuilding your deck of terrain cards by the safety of the campfire, you're not only planning for the best strategy of attack but crafting a completely different world for your hero to experience.

As you play, the empty loop gains character, winding through bucolic strips of villages and wheat fields, to dangerous alleys where you’ve been overzealous with haunted ruins, spider coves and bloody battlefields. Some enemy tiles will spawn automatically as punishment for building too much of a good thing, such as the goblin forts which are conjured into existence for every ten rock cards you put down. You have cards that can remove unwanted tiles, but never enough of them, so you’re rarely in complete control of the shape of the world. A grubby little bandit camp will spring from the earth like a grease stain on your otherwise immaculately planned loop.

The game is presented in a pixel art style which works well and the music is very fitting too. Quite often I find myself turning off the music in games but this hasn’t happened so far here. The story aspects of the game are presented in text and I found this more than sufficient to get the points across and this also fits well with the overall game presentation.

This isn’t an idle or clicker game where you can look away and let it play itself for long periods of time; you’re going to get crushed if you’re not constantly juggling the world tiles and your inventory. But with the right settings, the game will pause itself at times when your attention is likely needed, making it an easy experience to multitask and play at a glacial pace as you watch Netflix or juggle another activity. It’s designed to enthrall you when you can give it your time, and to dutifully wait for your return if you get pulled into something else.

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