Well, you can’t say they didn’t give us every warning possible. This is hard. Like, really hard, like, it took me twelve tries to do level one on easy. On easy! Oh, and did I mention it’s a roguelike? So it’s not like when I work out where I’m going, I have an advantage because, yes, you guessed it, the levels change. I know they said it was going to be hard and that was the point but wow. I was not expecting to die this much. I don’t think I’ve died this frequently since Bloodborne. Sorry, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, this is To Hell With Hell.
To Hell With Hell is a roguelike (the levels are randomly generated every time you die) bullet hell (see, there are bullets and enemies coming from everywhere. Always) game from Indie developer Lazurite Games, the basic plot is you play the daughter of a Demon, tasked with killing another Demon to solve a war between Demons, you’re also going to have to kill a lot of other Demons and Spiders and Headcrabs and other monstrosities along the way. Luckily, you have a vast array of weapons and masks you can pick up as you go along, giving you power-ups and abilities to help you not die for a few seconds longer.
The masks, each with their own full-body transformation for your perma-bikinied protagonist, are a fun spin on the traditional power-up system and form part of a well-designed ‘Hellish’ aesthetic with the game using every one of its pixels and every note of its brilliantly cheesy chiptune-metal soundtrack to sell the atmosphere. It’s not a scary game, it’s not meant to be, but it’s fair to say when the action picks up, there’ll be a fair few people getting more anxious as hundreds of spiders run at them.
One of the much-discussed elements of the game is that throughout the entire playthrough, you only get 6 saves. With an unknown amount of randomly-generated levels, you don’t know how long you need to leave between saves or how close you are to the end, making even the process of saving a thoughtful, tension-filled fare. There are going to be those who hate this feature, but in an age of constant auto-saving, it’s nice to be given a thorough challenge again. Even if it’s one that I’m sure by now people who have read any of my other Video Games reviews have probably guessed, I’m not quite up to.
Perhaps the biggest issue the game suffers is that in an effort to create an effective roguelike, it’s sacrificed any real feeling of specificity or intention to a lot of what happens and as it’s not exactly a tactical game, the tactics being point and shoot, it doesn’t provide much in the way of variation which can lead to a feeling of repetition or fatigue to it. Occasionally there are Boss fights with some nicely designed and frequently grotesque sprites but even then, it amounts to more extended bouts of dodge the attacks and shoots the weak-spots.
The thing is, To Hell With Hell isn’t a complex game but it doesn’t feel like it’s aiming to be. It feels like they tried to do two things well, making shooting wave upon wave of enemies fun and to make death feel rewarding. You know it’s going to keep happening and that’s fine, it forces you to focus in and learn each enemy’s movements and what to do, even if you have no idea what the map’s going to look like next. It does both of these things well. It doesn’t change the game but it doesn’t need to, it just needed to do a few basic things well and focus in on being fun. Quite frankly, it’s one hell of a good time. Just be prepared, when they say it’s hard, they aren’t kidding, not even remotely.
To Hell With Hell is available on PC now.