A budget horizontal shooter, Hell Pages is an action game that was originally released on Steam over a year ago. Now available on Switch, its cardboard cut-out visual style, grindy unlockables, and steep difficulty spikes makes this a shooter that constantly takes one step forward then one step back.
The entire game is composed of low-quality sprites and animation. At the same time, although the presentation might look a little cheap, it has a cohesive visual theme that is rather profound. The Doom-inspired visuals and heavy metal soundtrack might be a little generic but still manages to fit the bill. It is a little weird that there is a fair amount of backstory for a shooter but the plain white text on a black background doesn’t do the presentation any favors when the game first starts.
This is a straightforward shooter that anyone can pick up and play. One button shoots the rapid-fire machine gun, another releases the screen clearing magic attack, and another rotates the pods that shoots with the player forwards or backwards. It is simple but the default button layout is strange as it is difficult to hold the Y button but then tap the A button to switch the direction of the pods on the fly. It is too bad the player is not given the ability to customize the controls as using the B button would have been much more intuitive.
Most common enemies increase score, which serves no purpose as there is no online leaderboard features, but they also drop coins when defeated. This currency can then be spent at a demonic shop before the next stage. Oddly enough, the player must spend money to refill the health bar (it does not auto-fill when starting a new stage), can buy a one-time use magic attack, or can use that hard earned cash to buy a continue or one save. Meaning, if you die without buying the expensive save feature, you will need to start at level 1 next time you play. Even if the player collects all the coins in each stage, there is just barely enough to buy a save and health re-fill.
If this didn’t make the game hard enough, bosses often have unfair attack patterns and there is no damage-taking sound effect or visual cue. There were many times where I took damage but didn’t realize I saw I only had one hit left. Each stage takes a few minutes to reach the boss too. So even if that save slot was purchased, you’ll need to grind through that level again, without having the ability to keep your collected money, before dying at the long and unfair boss fight.
Even when playing on the easiest difficulty, I still couldn’t clear the stage 3 boss. From the optional soundtrack feature found in the main menu, it indicates there are several more stages in the game. Too bad I won’t be able to see any more of them due to the high difficulty.
Hell Pages feels like it has its head and heart headed in the right direction but there are many shortcomings that hold back the experience.
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By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com
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