Are you a gamer with a weak stomach, or who prefers the cuter things in life, like unicorns and kittens? If so, might I suggest that you go and find a different review to read, as what is to follow may upset you…
Still here? Good. Now, the latest game from developers Sluggerfly is called Hell Pie – a game that is being billed as “an obscene 3D platformer that takes bad taste to the next level”. Well, having played it I can honestly say that every last word of that description is true, but the question I hope to answer in this review is the following: Is there a decent game struggling to get out from under this pile of crudity? Let’s go to Hell and find out.
Now, every good game needs a story, and luckily there is a story in Hell Pie. Whether it’s a strong one is up for debate, but an effort has been made, and we have to respect that. We play as Nate, the demon of bad taste (off to a good start) and we are given the task of gathering all the ingredients that need to go into Satan’s birthday pie. The more discerning among you may well think that this sounds like nothing more than the setup for a series of fetch quests, and there’s a very good reason for that: it absolutely is a setup for a series of fetch quests. As we progress, new hub worlds are unlocked, allowing the chance to go to new and exciting locations. The story has a pretty big tick next to it.
Presentation wise, all appears well too. Nate is a cute little demon with a natty line in outfits that can be bought with whatever the in-game currency is – they look like purple blobs, but I guess they could be crystals at a push. As you’d expect, the graphics are firmly on the gross out/gory/downright unpleasant end of whatever spectrum these things are measured on, and one of the first scenes shows us what happens when demons upset Satan, as he melts their faces clean off, merely by talking on the phone. And things get worse from there, a particular “highlight” being wading through a sewer, fighting poop monsters.
It’s a shame that there are camera issues and Hell Pie can sometimes struggle to be able to give a decent view of the action, but it mostly copes fairly well. The sound is pretty good, all told, with meaty thwacks as we fight (using an angel on a chain, but more about this soon) with some highlights found in the music and the rest of the incidentals. So far, as advertised.
Now, a 3D platformer like this (of which there have been many in the past) has three main legs, three main areas to excel in if you like. Namely, these are exploration, combat and traversal. Starting with traversal and the news is good at least. One of the first things we have to do in the game is buy a cherub, a chubby little fellow by the name of Nugget. Now, Nugget is chained to Nate, and this is where one of the cool bits of the movement mechanics come in. As we jump, if we are going to fall short of our destination, Nugget can hover, and allow us to swing off the chain to jump that little bit further. So Nugget is, in fact, pretty much a grappling hook. Add to this Nate’s air dash move, and the ability to equip different sets of horns to get new abilities (my personal favourite being the Jet Horns, that allow him to fly a good distance) and the jumping about bit of Hell Pie is very good indeed.
Combat again utilises poor old Nugget, as he can be swung around by the chain and clobber pretty much anything he comes into contact with. There’s not a massive amount of variation in how the fighting side of Hell Pie plays out to be frank, and even the bosses of the worlds have fairly simple attack patterns that shouldn’t cause you too many difficulties.
Finally, exploration is its own reward, as is usual in these type of games. There are many, many collectibles hidden around the place, with every hub world having its own collection of things to locate. In the first world, for example, we are collecting unicorn goats, and when we have enough, they can be sacrificed in order to get a new set of horns that allow us to dash attack things. The actual sacrificing animation is pretty grim (what did you expect?) but the ends justify the means, kinda. If I had my super picky head on, I would have liked the collectibles to be either bigger or more noticeable, as they are pretty hard to spot, but careful exploration will pay dividends.
To conclude it’s probably best to answer the big question that I asked at the top of the review: Is there a decent game in Hell Pie, aside from the gross out “humour”? Well, yes there is. The star of the show has to be the way that with a suitable set of upgrades for Nugget (done by finding cans of his favourite food, which add up to unlocking new abilities ) you can almost spend more time in the air than on the ground. And honestly, using a cherub as a grappling hook never gets old. Neither does using Nugget to smash crates, to be honest, but that maybe says a bit more about me than Hell Pie itself.
It all comes together to ensure that Hell Pie is a more than competent game that is worth playing despite the obscenity, rather than because of it.
Hell Pie is available from the Xbox Store