High Hell Review – Minimalism Done Right
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Developer: Terri Vellmann, Doseone
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release: 23th October 2017
After developing Heavy Bullets, a roguelike FPS, in 2014, Terri Vellmann is back with a more linear, speedrunner focused shooter. Offering 20 little levels, stripped down mechanics combined with a damn fast gameplay, High Hell promises a short but great experience and can fully deliver … nearly.
Did you ever dream of killing artificially controlled apes, masked men or stealing goats while burning some cocaine? Well, then High Hell´s short but crazy missions will finally offer this experience. Even though there isn´t a big story in place, the game´s missions and goals are bursting with creativity when it comes to adult humour. Battling naked enemies is great and confusing at the same time. Nonetheless, most of these ideas just don´t translate into a unique gameplay twist, serving mostly as one time jokes or model changer. Saving a goat feels exactly the same like saving a hostage, resulting in fun but somehow repetitive mission goals, that don´t use their full potential.
On the other, the presentation can deliver exactly what the game needs, a minimalistic but gorgeous experience. Even though most textures consist of a plain colour while objects and humans are very simplistic. Objectively, High Hell isn´t a good-looking game but all these plain, minimalistic elements put together create a stunningly great looking experience. Because of its fast gameplay the graphics don´t need to be detailed, especially if they have such a unique neon touch to them. Along the fitting and adrenaline fueling soundtrack by Doseone, it´s a surprisingly well working experience.
Nonetheless, High Hell´s core is the shooter gameplay, focusing on fast, simple but extremely fun and challenging design. First of all, during the whole game, there´s only one weapon and no reaload function, letting the focus switch from having the best weapon for each situation to killing enemies as fast as possible. Since every enemey except bosses die in one hit but are able to kill us in only a few hits too, combined with the lack of cover, constant movement is a necessity. In its gameplay flow, High Hell is very similar to DOOM 2016, just without these awful finishers. Moving around, shooting, perfecting the aim and getting a hang of enemy behaviour are the core parts of its gameplay. Despite its minimalism or maybe because of it, the gameplay is able to deliver a super fun shooter experience.
The 20 missions, each of them lasting around 1-3 minutes, may not sound like a lot but considering that every level introduces either a new design element, boss, enemy type or a stupid joke let them feel very different. Starting out on a plain building with a few doors to end in giant, multi diagonal, complex structures, the campaign is able to stay fresh because there no lengths nor boring areas. It seems like every unnecessary level was removed to guarantee a fluid and tense experience. In addition it´s also perfectly for speedrunners due to the fact every mission is completed by jumping off the map.
Unfortunately, not everything about it is as great as the pure gameplay. Namely, the mediocre bosses that constantly work against the gameplay design. On the one hand none of them are actually unique or interesting. Shooting in a robot eye or destroying generators to weaken a boss isn´t new nor interesting. On the other hand, they actually require an either very slow, cover based approach or no at all. They aren´t really challenging, don´t convey a feeling of power, hence dont´t force the player to get used to their behaviour or present them with a challenging fight.
All in all, High Hell is still a damn fun shooter, offering short-lived action, fast paced gameplay along thoughtful level and visual design. Especially for speedrunners the few minutes long missions are great but everyone able to laugh about virgin goats or other stupid jokes will definitely have fun with it. Only the lackluster bosses and quite high price point of 9.99 for a 1-2 hours gameplay.
[A Review Code was provided by Devolver Digital]