It's never cool to be blamed for something you didn't do... even if you were planning on doing it yourself, but someone got to it before you did and decided to leave you holding the bag. That's what happens to Josh, hero of IriySoft's shooter-RPG Band of Heroes, when his plan to steal a legendary gem from the king goes awry when someone else thrashes him and takes the gem before he can. Now he's on the run, both to evade the king's forces and get back that sweet shiny jewel, but as you might expect, he's going to wind up gathering a motley band of heroes where he likes it or not and save the world in the process. Which is, you know, legally required for an RPG, even one that's half vertical shooter too.
Each stage, your party will advance up the screen as enemies swarm down at you. The game is controlled entirely with the mouse, and during levels your heroes will attack automatically and follow your mouse's path. It's your job to guide them through and around hazards, and grab dropped gold and gems to spend on upgrading your party's abilities between stages. Each hero in your group can sustain damage from the enemies that come your way from the top of the screen and any other environmental hazards, so make sure you stay on your toes and nab any green healing potions you see, since once their health runs out you'll have to complete the stage without them. (Unless one of your party has a special ability, of course.) Luckily, enemies, chests, and crates also drop temporary weapon upgrades that persist 'til the end of the stage, so nab the orbs when you see them. If you're having trouble with a level, remember that on the world map you can not only swap out your party members, but also choose the leader... important since the leader grants different passive bonuses and has a different special attack depending on who's in charge.
Band of Heroes is one of those great simple ideas that takes two genres that work surprisingly well together and bundles them up in a good looking package. The story here is definitely on the cheesy side, but the clever mix of concepts and simple addictive gameplay more than makes up for it. What it doesn't make up for, however, is how sluggishly your party seems to respond at times, and when coupled with each character's large hitbox, the game just doesn't often feel quite as responsive as a classic shooter really should. Whether this is a killer for you largely depends on how much grinding you're willing to do to pump your party full of levels and coin-fueled upgrades, especially Selene's Resurrection ability, which is practically a necessity when it comes to boss battles. Which are, speaking of which, actually surprisingly cool and full of neat surprises. Band of Heroes isn't a perfect game, but it is a really neat idea and is pulled off surprisingly well with a lot of action to be had if you've got the patience.