I certainly like the idea of bullet hell games, but more often than not, like in the immortal words of Billy Ocean: “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” To Hell With Hell is one of those games. In theory, a stripper running around hell blasting away demons sounds compelling, but in practice, it’s frustrating as… well… hell.
To Hell With Hell is currently in Early Access on Steam and offers a game in which players are meant to die. At least, that’s the way I see it. It’s a game that has been intentionally designed to be hard as balls, but it almost crosses that line of being too hard to be enjoyable.
The game has players take the role of stripper Natasia. Why the developers decided to highlight the fact that she’s a sex worker baffles me, but alas, it is what it is. It just seems to me like an unnecessary thing to point out. I mean, other games don’t tend to make a habit of highlighting protagonists careers, though maybe it’s a way for the developers to justify why on promo art, Natasia is half naked.
Anyway, Natasia finds out she’s the daughter of Asmodius, the ruler of hell. This is another thing that’s bothering me slightly because presumably, the developers are referencing Asmodeus, the ruler of demons. This could be a typo, or it could be intentional, either way, it’s annoying me more than it should.
Unfortunately for Asmodius, his enemies have locked him away, so he calls upon his daughter, oblivious to the fact that her dad is the ruler of hell, to rid the underworld of his foes and free him from his imprisonment. That seems to be pretty much all there is in terms of story, so let’s dive into the gameplay.
To Hell With Hell is being touted as a “classic” Bullet Hell rogue-like crawler, and in some ways, it’s not wrong. It’s a bullet hell, it’s a dungeon crawler, and there are some roguelike elements to it. Unfortunately, the game’s difficulty is so high that it becomes nigh-on impossible to actually enjoy and learn aspects of the game.
Maybe it’s because I’m bad at games, that’s usually it, but for the most part, I can ham-fist my way through. To Hell With Hell doesn’t really allow for that. Everything also goes way to fast to actually pay attention to, or learn any of the game’s mechanics on the fly, which adds to the frustration.
To Hell With Hell‘s main gameplay mechanic comes in the form of masks which can be picked up and transform’s Natasia’s human form into something completely different, whether it’s a flaming demon, a tank in riot gear, a ninja, or a great-sword wielding knight. These masks can be stacked and act like “lives” during the game and come with their own health bars. Once their bar has depleted, back to the previous mask you go, or if there are no other masks, Natasia’s human form.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, this seems like a pretty interesting mechanic, a way of upgrading your abilities on the fly, and yeah, it absolutely is. However, having to press a key or button to pick up the mask while you’re in the midst of battle is probably one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever experienced. Adding to that, if you’re surrounded by a hail of gunfire, chances are the mask won’t survive long enough for you to even understand or learn its abilities.
I get it. It’s a roguelike/rogue-lite, a dungeon crawler, and it’s being designed to be intentionally difficult. The fact that I suck at the game is totally on me, I get that, but I just can’t see how anyone would find being intentionally fucked, enjoyable.
But let’s not dwell on my inability to play a game. To Hell With Hell does have some redeeming factors, the gameplay is incredibly fluid, I had no issues with how it handles. I preferred mouse and keyboard over controller as the controller just seemed a bit clunky, but milling around blasting demons with standard PC controls was a joy.
The way that To Hell With Hell handles saves is also interesting. Due to the game being intentionally difficult players are given limited chances to save, and once they’ve used up all of the saves, that’s it, once you die, it’s back to the start. I’d definitely recommend saving before boss battles because you’re going to die – that’s a guarantee.
Over the course of my time with the game, I can see that the developers are constantly adding to the game, with little changes coming in here and there which is great to see. There are no shortages of bullet hell roguelike dungeon crawlers on Steam, so the fact that the developers are keen to listen to players and implement changes often is nice to see.
Would I put the game up there with the greats, like Gungeon or Nuclear Throne? Possibly. There’s still a way to go, but it’s possible.
If you’re looking for a hard as balls bullet hell dungeon crawling roguelite, I would actually recommend giving the game a spin. However, if you’re after something that eases you into the world of bullet hell, then maybe go for something a little tamer.