Released on July 2018 on Steam Early Access, To Hell with Hell is a top-down Roguelike bullet hell game designed to challenge the sternest of players throughout a series of randomly generated demon-infested battlegrounds. To me, it sounded fantastic on paper and having seen the demo of it before it’s release, I was excited to become immersed. But after playing the Early Access version, whilst I saw potential in this title there was one aspect alone that made it test my patience above all else at this point in development.
To point out one of the many more positive aspects of the game, however, the visuals are pretty impressive. Seemingly drawing inspiration from the original Doom, the game takes place in hellish environments with equally hellish creatures ready to jump out and attack players left, right and center. The soundtrack that accompanies the game is also very reminiscent of Doom, comprising of mostly heavy metal, which also works well for me as a fan of the genre. The one big gripe I have with the graphics is that the enemy’s movement animations seem less detailed compared to that of the playable characters, making the game seem somewhat rushed in this respect.
The game is designed to be challenging on an unprecedented level, and so it is. Playing out like a combination of Diablo and Cuphead, it relies on the player’s ability to subdue enemies, but at the same time avoiding the onslaught of enemy attacks that are inevitably returned to them. From the onset, the challenge posed to players is made clear, and it doesn’t let up from there. There is also variety in gameplay with players being able to find new and more powerful weapons and abilities as the game progresses, which as with most Roguelikes, could offer value for replayability.
However, the big issue this game has, which will very much discourage replayability, is the controls. Giving players the choice of using either a mouse or controller, the game’s control scheme works very similarly to that of Hotline Miami, using a similar targeting system for players to defeat enemies, but in this case, it’s even more questionable, The target can be brought all the way to the four corners of the screen, which regardless of mouse sensitivity settings, hamper the game to a ridiculous extent. It would work better with a targeting system identical to that of Hotline Miami, whereby the cursor is only restricted to a specific radius, or even better still, a control scheme identical to that of The Binding of Isaac, whereby the opposite analog stick is used to shoot while the other is used to move. But the way it has been handled in this game at this point in development is, be that playing with mouse or controller, is nothing short of abysmal, and it’s a crying shame if this issue isn’t addressed because the game has so much potential otherwise.
For those who may be able to get past how terrible the game’s control scheme is, the game can be made to last for however long the player wants. However, most players who pick this up won’t be able to at this point, and therefore will most likely struggle to get past 20 minutes. The frustration of having a control scheme that doesn’t work can deny players hours upon hours of time with this title.
The story at this point is as unique as the visuals; if not more so. The game follows the struggles of Natasias; an agent of the ruler of Hell, who has been imprisoned and is charged with rescuing him from a usurper to his throne. Though drawing inspiration from Doom, much as it does in the way of its visuals, the potential extent of the mythology behind this game is nothing short of phenomenal and therefore may promise expansion of the series in the future.
The idea of combining work inspired by John Carmack and John Romero with a bullet hell game with bullet hell gameplay certainly sound extremely exciting, and could potentially make for a fairly unique PC experience. I can hope that as the game’s development progresses further, even more different types of environments and enemies are added to further enhance what is already promising; perhaps if different types of levels are included, they could following the theme of the seven circles of Hell similar to Dante’s Inferno.
In summary, To Hell with Hell is a promising game at this point, but the problems also need to be ironed out. As long as the control scheme is improved upon, and inputting controller commands is made easier, then it could make for something particularly entertaining.