Great Balls of Fire
Entertainment can come in many forms and shapes. Even in the medium of video games, there are so many variations that there is a guarantee that someone will like something. However, how much entertainment you can get from one game to another can vary wildly. Some go for the flashy graphics that grab you, while others go for story, and some just try to give you endless gameplay options. Dungeon crawlers, especially ones dynamically generated (Rogue-likes) are fun because you never know what you’re going to get. To spice up that formula even further some developers add the idea of “bullet-hell” to make things just that much more challenging, which just adds to the entertainment value. Bullet hells and Rogue-likes by themselves are highly entertaining especially when comparing them to their initial cost. But because of the intrinsic nature of these games, you can just keep playing them over and over with no loss in fun.
My stream of To Hell With Hell is embedded below:
Lazurite Games has melded these two worlds to bring us To Hell with Hell. Normally, it’s just one chosen avatar that has certain weapons or traits, but in this case, you always start with one character and then randomly get another by the use of masks. Each mask you get is radically different, and comes with different weapons and skills that vary in usefulness. One new mask may have a shotgun, but a really bad power, while another might have a bad gun but great powers. With each mask also comes another health bar equal to the primary character, but when you get damaged enough to break one of the health bars, you lose that character’s mask and their skills, and it won’t come back even with health increasing items. It’s a high price for those guns and powers, and the void it leaves when you lose one is felt immediately and harshly.
Having additional characters act as both powers, guns, and health is something I haven’t seen before, and it’s a very different take on the character choice system. However, there are still some problems with that. Because of the heavy emphasis of getting a new mask, they leave the initial primary character very under powered, and it can be a real slog to get that first mask. Also, when you do get a new mask, you aren’t told what the powers do, so activating them in the heat of battle can be a real surprise both good and bad, but always leads to confusion. The lack of information on the whole is pretty jarring, as it took me a while to understand that the masks were linked to my health, and vice-versa.
While this is very definitely a love letter to bullet hells and rogue-likes, it doesn’t seem up to the task of joining the greats in this field. The movement is very stilted, and it always seems unresponsive to controls until the last micro-second. It’s not well explained how your powers work, and the difficulty slides from candyland to impossible seemingly in the blink of an eye, and this only gets worse when you realize that the masks are not all created equal and some are vastly more useful than others. Also, when you get a mask, you don’t have the ability to change the order in which you got it, meaning the last mask you got will be the first to take damage, so you might lose your favorite mask. It’s not bad, and it’s a very interesting health and power system that is unique and interesting, but there needs to be more polish for it to stand with its kin among the most valuable entertainment out there.