HIGH HELL Review
The most memorable moments in any shooter title involve the eponymous core game mechanic. After all, the very genre itself is called First Person Shooter. However, while playing modern FPS titles, there always seems to be some extra luggage thrown upon said game mechanic. On most occasions, these elements have the end goal of making it more enticing for players, enhancing the gameplay one way or another. Shooters today can’t simply just be shooters. Either they are like WOLFENSTEIN, where the story and single player campaign are the main selling points, or their online multiplayer system is a huge centerpiece for those games, like in DESTINY or PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS. And then it feels like once in a blue moon you have those daring titles that decide to strip all the extra fluff and shape an experience entirely focused on a fast-paced, arcade run-and-gun gameplay style. That is the case of HIGH HELL, a collaboration between indie developer Terri Vellman (HEAVY BULLETS) and rapper Doseone.
HIGH HELL takes a minimalistic approach to the FPS genre. It’s a short game and offers an experience directed towards those players who feel as if their current FPS titles are overwhelming them with padded filler. Compared to other recent popular titles, the game focuses strictly on manic, high-octane gameplay, great music, and a stripped-down, blocky art style. There’s no arguing with the fact that HIGH HELL knocks it out of the park when it comes to gameplay and milieu—however, it feels like it might rely a bit too much on these aspects alone, delivering a very short experience with little replay value that makes the player yearn for FPS action gleaned from another game.
In HIGH HELL, you’re limited to only one gun and a melee attack, with every level focusing on an approach that requires you to memorize and repeat the trial-and-error method of approaching a new area. This is where the heart of the action of the game lies; however, mastering the game does not require much skill, and every level can be defeated in a matter of minutes as soon as you figure out the tricks of the trade. The hot neon pink colors and fast beats also feel like an aspect directly culled from HOTLINE MIAMI, but combined with the addition of an art style that resembles early PlayStation titles like APE ESCAPE, HIGH HELL still manages to pull off an efficient and fresh experience, cutting loose from several FPS game standards and delivering a neat cut straight from the arcade.
Rapid gun fights with masked men in shorts seems like a an enticing challenge
The game’s main goal consists of storming through the 20 levels. Delivered in an episodic manner, each level has its own main objective that consists of taking down an evil, gruesome, drug-smuggling, Satanic corporation. In some levels there are side missions, but once you complete your main objective, you are free to jump off the roof of the levels and parachute to victory. The objectives can range from sabotaging enemy equipment to defeating mind control chimps and burning down the enemy’s piles of cash. Completing the objectives is easier said than done, because every level is littered with enemies who have deadly accuracy and can take you out with very few shots. The story is wacky and doesn’t really force itself upon the player, focusing more on delivering a fun experience instead of one filled with substance. For those players who are eager to find out more about this bizarre world, there is some hidden lore in the background for the careful observer.
You better save that Goat. It has so much to live for!
The run-and-gun mechanic is whittled down to the bare minimum. The game limits its controls to a handful of actions consisting of running, shooting, kicking, and jumping. Occasionally you will have the option to interact with a object related to your objective, but that’s all there is to it. There are no additional guns, power-ups, or game mechanics introduced later on in the game. While this sounds like some backwards design, the gunplay is strong enough to make up for anything that’s lacking.
The levels are beaten by an eventual memorizing of where every enemy is located on the map, requiring you to have to calculate the fastest and most successful route to plow your way through the hordes. If you lose, you will have to start the level from the beginning, and the trial commences once more. Normally repeating tasks can be nightmarish for some gamers; however, because of its frenetic pace, the repetition of the gameplay feels hypnotic and highly addicting.
Combined with the electronic soundtrack composed by Doseone, HIGH HELL creates a highly hyperactive and anarchic gaming environment. With the music pumping, every level feels like you are interrupting some hardcore office party at Bad Guy HQ, ready to kick some ass. The blaring neon pastels of the art style complement the gameplay as well. The enemies and characters look as if they fit perfectly in this bizarre, devilish world.
This game manages to get weirder with every level
Another unexpected area where HIGH HELL shines is how every level is tied to one of the best uses of loading screens I’ve seen in a game in a long time. It took me some time before I noticed that on every loading occasion between levels I could interact with the screen in one way or another. These events create nice little vignettes tying some plot together, creating an engaging way of showcasing some form of progression, while at the same time managing to keep the player constantly immersed in the game. The one downside is that the loading times are truncated, so I didn’t get a chance to see all the interactive bits. This is perhaps one of the only times I ever have wished that the interstitial screens were longer in a game.
Confusing? Perhaps, but I’m entertained while I wait for the next level
HIGH HELL is a FPS with fantastic potential, only held back by its length and replay value. Seeing how every level can technically be beaten in a matter of minutes, there’s always a sense of wanting just a little bit more. At the end of the game I wanted to continue going through these oddball missions. Perhaps future DLC containing new levels and objectives could draw players back into the game. Or better yet, similar to TRIALS, the developers could implement a level editor which would definitely enhance the game, allowing the players to make their own short arenas and let others play them after they had beaten the main campaign. For the low price HIGH HELL rests at, the game delivers a stellar, if short, arcade run-and-gun title.