In a drastic departure from their point and click origins, SkyGoblin aims to blend multiple genres for their newest game, Hellfront: Honeymoon. The groundwork works astonishingly well, but unfortunately not all the pieces manage to fit together as well as SkyGoblin may have hoped. In fact, the fun gameplay is hurt by restrictive multiplayer and a sometimes frustrating single player experience.
Hellfront combines aspects of twin stick shooter, tower defence and strategy games in one, seeing you control a marine running and gunning through various hexagonal alien landscapes. The objective of each map is to completely eliminate all of your opponents. This is done primarily by capturing what the game calls honeypots – glowing hexagons in which you can either put a barracks or a turret – and this is where the strategy elements come in. Barracks produce 4 marines every ten seconds, all of which you can order around the map to help destroy parts of the environment or enemy bases. Turrets on the other hand act more as a temporary solution to your problems. As they shoot, their health dwindles down eventually killing themselves. When destroyed, both barracks and turrets spawn aliens that will indiscriminately go after you and your enemies. All of these aspects combined lead to the formation of some interesting strategies and allow a great deal of freedom.
When playing against the AI, it’s also important to keep in mind what they consider a priority. They will often ignore you in favour of going after your armies or buildings, allowing you to sneak behind enemy lines and destroy bases while their armies are elsewhere. But this comes at great risk, because when you die, you respawn a couple of seconds later at a random base of your own, sometimes putting you far away from where you need need to be, which can ruin a whole run. The high level of risk/reward that this game offers, with its surprising amount of freedom, is what makes it so enjoyable.
Some maps can be beaten in under a minute, while others are drawn out wars of attrition, both of which are equally entertaining. The longer, more drawn out affairs always feel tense; victory can slip out from your fingers at any second. Unfortunately, the single player missions are plagued with difficulty inconsistencies that do a lot to undermine Hellfront’s more enjoyable aspects. It is this single player mode that consists of multiple planets with dozens of carefully created maps for you to play on. Everything starts off well enough, with Hellfront: Honeymoon offering up creative map designs to help get you thinking outside the box. However in the second world the level difficulty varies so wildly that it feels jarring. Ideally you would have levels gradually getting harder, however the difficulty spikes feel almost random. You can be stuck on one level for over a half hour only to find yourself completing the next few on your first try. This inconsistency is by far the most annoying aspect of the game.
Primarily this is due to the level design. While I would like to say that the maps overall are well built, for the single player that isn’t always the case. Some levels unfairly favour the AI, allowing them to amass sizeable armies before you can have two buildings up. This leads to you frequently resorting to restarting the level, trying your hardest to optimize various strategies for it to simply not work. These levels make victory feel less earned and more randomly found.
Hellfront: Honeymoon itself can be rather hectic as well. Managing small armies, rebuilding bases, avoiding gunfire while laying down some of your own – it is a lot of information to handle.
SkyGoblin do a great job in the early levels allowing you to get used to the simple controls and general tactics. However visually, even once you have a solid understanding of how the game works, things can often get overwhelming. It’s easy to get lost in between the constant explosions and masses of enemies swarming you. It doesn’t help that your character is about as strong as a twig, dying rather quickly.
The multiplayer is where you’re expected to spend most of your time. In this mode you will be fighting amongst up to three other friends using the same mechanics and tactics found in the single player. Since they do little to change up the formula for this mode, with the exception of creating a fairly large amount of unique arenas to fight in, you can expect to have just as much enjoyment as you did in the single player. While this leads to a pretty tense and satisfying time, it is unfortunately limited to couch co-op only. You are handicapped and not able to experience the multiplayer to its full potential because of this limiting factor. There is definitely something to be said about developers preserving and promoting couch co-op, but in today’s day and age, forgoing online multiplayer and matchmaking in favour of local only is mind boggling.
As a first outing in this mix of genres for SkyGoblin, Hellfront: Honeymoon is a unique experience. Unfortunately though, your fun can be marred by some ridiculous difficulty spikes when going through the single player campaign. The questionable decision to restrict the multiplayer to local only is unfortunate too because at its heart, Hellfront: Honeymoon is a multiplayer game. I could easily see myself spending a fair amount of time playing some online matchmaking, and I am sorry that this experience isn’t available, but if you can manage to get a group of friends together on the sofa, you will definitely enjoy your time.