Coming from the masters of short games that give up the full Gamerscore hit within half an hour – yes, they of eastasiasoft – comes a new title, Hellbreachers. Now, unless I’m very much mistaken (and I usually am) this is one of the first eastasiasoft titles to be optimised for the Xbox Series X|S, and so you’d be expecting some graphical whizz bangs and to be blown away by the action on display, yeah? Well, at risk of minor spoilers, don’t get your hopes up as Hellbreachers could well be best described as “just another eastasiasoft title”. But come with me to Hell, and let’s see what’s what, shall we?
Hellbreachers is a retro-styled action platformer. Now, after taking in the official blurb, apparently the main draw of it is the chance to enjoy “A hero selection system with further choice of hero’s specialization.” That’s it: the best thing about the game, the thing that they put in the shop window to entice you in, is the fact that there is a hero selection system.
It is therefore only fair that we unpack this, and in Hellbreachers you can be one of three heroes: the Knight, the Magician and the assassin. Not sure why the assassin doesn’t deserve a capital letter, but there you go. Each character can also have a specialisation, that allows you to use different abilities and ranged attacks, and even different super abilities. Of course, you don’t need to use any of them if you don’t want to as Hellbreachers as a test of gaming skills is so easy it’s verging on the ridiculous, but we’ll come onto that.
The graphics are nice enough, with a cute retro style and an almost super deformed look to the sprites – all big heads and little bodies. The animation of the heroes and the baddies that you’ll stumble upon in the levels are very appealing. The baddies are a varied bunch as well, ranging from ghosts to giant spider-type things that spit webbing at you, whilst the bosses are also pretty imaginative. It must be noted that the audio is equally as nice too, with suitably effort-laden grunts as you jump about, and swooshing combat sounds. But, and it’s a big but, the gameplay isn’t up to snuff.
Let me explain, and I’ll take the example of the spider I mentioned before. As soon as you get near this spider, it starts to shoot projectiles at you. “No problem!” you may well be thinking, “I’ll simply get close, jump between the projectiles and nail it with a projectile of my own!”. Well, not so fast. That does sound like a great plan, except you can’t fire a projectile while you’re jumping. The only way to defeat the spider, and indeed many other things, is to tank a hit, and then run up and smack it in the face with your sword, staff or whatever depending on which character you are.
And don’t even get me started on the bosses! See, the timing of the projectiles is so hard to judge, and the delay between you pressing a button and something happening on screen is so long, that the best way to defeat a boss is to go full-on toe-to-toe, hitting it with a melee attack, and seeing who falls over first. Hint: it won’t be you.
Without a word of a lie, while fighting the second boss, my cat managed to turn the TV off by jumping on the remote control. Unperturbed, I kept on mashing A while I found the remote and turned the TV back on. I had won the fight. Yep, I won a fight with a boss while the TV was off. Just let that sink for a moment…
Add to this the whole standard eastasiasoft focus of giving all the achievements by the end of level 3 strategy that they seemingly love to employ, and what you are left with in Hellbreachers is a game which happily knocks out all of the available achievements inside of 30 minutes flat; done and dusted within the first three levels. Given the state of the controls and the general rubbishness of the combat (and the double jump is another bone of contention, as it is really hard to get your character to land where you want them to go) and what we have is a game that really isn’t good enough to warrant your time.
Of course, if you want cheap, easy achievements then you should well fill your boots, as 1000G for 30 minutes when accompanied by a silly low asking price makes this a huge tempter. If however you want a game that is worthy of the X|S branding, one that challenges you for reasons beyond the shonky controls, and one that keeps you playing after all the achievements have been won, well, you are best looking elsewhere.
It’s a shame too as Hellbreachers on Xbox could have been a good game, at least should a little more care have been lavished on the controls and the general difficulty balancing. But even though there are numerous bosses to defeat, after you have reached the third the game is out of ideas, and that means the desire to keep playing evaporates like the morning dew.