Down to Hell (PC) Review with stream
Great metal music
Fantasy settings are very popular in video games, wherein the player is controlling a lone hero who must overcome great odds to slay an evil villain or abominable monster. Usually the hero is a paragon of virtue, who can do no wrong and is obviously good and righteous, but this isn’t the case here. You play a knight errant who is saved by a woman he doesn’t know, but in this case he’s not all that good of a guy, and he’s just killing demons that get in his way in truly gruesome fashion.
Having a morally gray character is a nice turn on the cliché, but it also makes the player less likely to associate himself with who he is playing, and you’re not rooting for him to win like normal. This dark setup is part of theme of the whole game, and you can see that best portrayed by the quite beautiful scenery, and wonderful background. With smooth parallax scrolling showing dead and demented trees in the foreground and a wonderful, yet always setting sun in the back. This really enhances the mood, as you are a lone bastion of hope among the desolate wastes of demons. Even though the background never changes, it’s so good to have with you all the time that you don’t mind it always being there.
Great scenery aside, the game has some real problems. The main character kinda flops around with all his limbs on hinge, akin to playing a difficult flash game like “QWOP”. All the movements are so stilted and sudden, that you can have trouble just traversing the platforms. But even with perfect movements you might have trouble with that since there are random traps along the way that blend in with the scenery that are seemingly unavoidable before you jump on them from outside of view. With bushes that won’t let you go unless you break your controller button getting out, or with blood altars that seemingly hurt you for no reason that you cannot jump over or avoid.
Even if you can get around the platforms, you will eventually have to meet up with the unvaried monsters, of which I can only find three types. The attacks are boring, and very unbalanced as all it takes to kill anything is to juggle them in the air with no end. There is magic to use, but it seems totally pointless as it does nothing near the damage of normal attacks. The enemies also appear out of nowhere from the ground so there is no way to prepare anything special. Technically. there are combos but once you figure out that air juggling exists, everything else doesn’t matter.
Down to Hell is an homage to better games, with a clear inspiration from the Souls series. Dark fantasy is pretty hot right now, but this seems to be more of a cash in from that part of the market, instead of a heartfelt recreation. It does have some great points, like the background, and the artwork in general, and the soundtrack is pretty great if you’re into metal, but the combat, movement, and gameplay are just so distracting that it won’t be enough to save it in the end.