High Hell is a mostly fast paced action shooter where it’s your job to take down Pitchcorp, a big corporation filled with evil demons. It’s just you, your gun and a bunch of baddies. It sounds perfect for me but it may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
High Hell’s gameplay is as simple as its premise. The premise is you’re the good guy and there are bad guys and you’d rather there weren’t. So it’s up to you to use your gun and get rid of them all. That’s gun, singular. All you’ve got to get through the game is one gun and your kick but you’ve got unlimited ammo anyway so the kick might as well not be there. Normally, I’m a fan of minimalist games that only have one mechanic and do the most they can with it. This is not one of those games.
It just has one mechanic and it’s the exact same form the first level to the last: You shoot guys and that’s it. Well that’s almost it. There are side objectives too but as far as I can see they’re totally pointless. You get objectives like save the puppies, destroy the statues, burn the employee of the month picture. They don’t achieve anything. Nothing changes if you do them or avoid them and they all play out the same way. “Go here, press E”.
If there was any semblance of plot or the objectives had a purpose like upgrading your gun or getting more health then they’d have been fine but there’s absolutely no reason to do them as they are. Unless you want a high score, I guess. Though I can’t see anyone bragging to their friends about how they got a million points in High Hell Mission 12.
Thankfully, there aren’t that many levels. I’m on level 19, which I’m pretty sure is the last one. I’ve tried it a million times but it’s so tedious. You see, you’ve barely got any health and every time you die you go back to the start of the level. In earlier levels this isn’t so bad because they’re short and quick. When the levels get longer you really don’t want to repeat the first bit of it twenty times because one enemy at the end shot you through a crack in the wall from a mile away. That happens more often than you’d think.
The enemy AI in High Hell is very inconsistent. There are times when a soldier will come running into the room you’re in and just run around, forgetting how to use his gun. Sometimes though, they’ll be expert sharpshooters able to snipe a single hair follicle from two miles away with their eyes closed.
It’s things like this that stop it being a run ‘n’ gun game as the trailers would have you believe. It’s sort of like Hotline Miami in the sense that you win buy memorising level layouts and enemy positions but since they can often shoot you before you see them you’ll be hiding round corners and popping out when it’s safe rather than bursting into a room to blast demons like a badass.
The poor hitboxes don’t help. Aiming is easy because there’s no recoil or any of that but sometimes the game just won’t let you shoot something. You line up the perfect shot on a dog that hasn’t seen you yet and your lasers just go right through its head. The worst offenders are the exploding demons that sprint at you and deal a lot of damage. They take a lot of your health from you and it doesn’t feel fair when you see your laser hit it and it keeps coming at you.
When they explode it obscures your vision too. For gameplay that’s bad because your enemies can see through explosion clouds but you can’t. On the other hand it does give your eyes a break from High Hell’s ugly grey and pale salmon palette. It tries to go with the neon ’80s aesthetic but the 80s had more than two colours.
The colour scheme gets very tiresome quickly. Everywhere looks the same and that’d be grand if they looked interesting but it’s all flat textures. There isn’t a lot of variety in the enemy designs either. You’ll mostly be fighting the same demon in a 3 piece suit, except when you’re fighting the bosses.
They get off to a good start. The first one is actually fun. You’ve got to shoot him and then shoot his electric pylons while he’s healing. The second is a tedious fight against a big robot. Shoot it in the eye and run behind it. That’d be fine if you had more than a millisecond to run behind it and didn’t have to wait around for it to do its eye laser attack.
The third boss is pathetic. It’s just 3 guys that teleport somewhere else when they get hit. It would be challenging if it wasn’t a small room and you could just stand in a corner and fire away because they’re seemingly blind and can’t even hit you. The exception is that one somehow teleported behind me and killed me. There’s even one boss that just dies in one hit. I didn’t even see it before I killed it because it was in the middle of a room filled with enemies.
So that’s High Hell. There really isn’t much to it. I guess if you’re into speedrunning you might enjoy it. It can feel rewarding when you do a level quickly but it isn’t quite the run and gun shooter it makes itself out to be. It’s a shame it doesn’t do anything with its mechanics. I was genuinely enjoying the first few levels even though I wasn’t that interested before playing it.