Roguelike dungeon crawler. These words many years ago would have been enough to see me look away without the slightest interest, but having finally changed my ways due to spending plenty of time with The Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon and many other similar titles over the years, I now find myself rather excited when a new competitor joins the ranks of the countless adventures. Can Hellmut: The Badass from Hell rank amongst the best though?
Much like the previously mentioned games, Hellmut: The Badass from Hell is an incredibly fast paced and frenetic shooter that’s played from a top-down perspective. With an art style that lends itself to the original Doom and procedurally generated maps to keep things feeling fresh, Hellmut is certainly a game that looks to bring the best features and aspects of the genre together in an attempt to create the one ultimate Roguelike dungeon crawler. In all honesty, it doesn’t do a bad job with that attempt.
The overall objective of Hellmut: The Badass from Hell is simple. You play the role of a doctor whose life is about to get an all new meaning after a deal with a legion of demons goes horribly wrong! With his wish for immortality not quite going to plan, reducing him to nothing more than a brain stem and a skull in the process, the job of restoration lies in your hands. To ensure he becomes the immortal he originally begged to be, you must take our wishful thinking doctor through the hellish portals that have spawned, courtesy of the demons, and retrieve his body parts, whilst defeating the horrible Beezlebub, the one at fault for this mess in the process. In terms of the narrative experience, that’s about the most you’re going to get. It’s not entirely original, and it’s not entirely groundbreaking, but it’s the gameplay that pulls you in.
Now in terms of game modes, there are two ways to play. There is the Campaign of sorts and this is the main way to play Hellmut, whilst Gauntlet gives players a second option should you wish for something a little different.
In the Campaign option, players set off from within the doctor’s laboratory as nothing more than a skull and spinal cord, however with transformations available from within the laboratory, they can quickly take on the physical role of a new character. There are two available from the start; the Rat King, who comes prepared with a rubber coated rat gun, and the STITCHMONSTER who’s final appearance involves body parts sewn together into an abominable mess. It is the latter which comes packing unlimited throwing hammers to mow down the enemy.
There are more transformations available as you progress thanks to a second deal that has been made with inter-dimensional being Ka-Ra, and each new character comes with a unique weapon setup, appearance and ability. It will however be just the two to boot from the start of each game.
After selecting the first transformation you’ll be starting your run with, it’s onto the action. There are eight levels and four boss levels to play through and getting through to the end is something that only really takes a few hours – and several restarts whilst you learn how different enemies behave and how to react. That said, the few hours it takes is time you’ll spend blasting your way through countless hordes of enemies with rather fluid and exciting combat to be had throughout. There are numerous different enemy types to take note of along the way, and whilst the game doesn’t have the highest levels of detail on the enemies due to the chosen art style, there are plenty of notable differences between those found, ensuring things feel fresh as you progress.
Something else that helps with this is the fact that each level brings a new randomly generated map, and even though the general layouts don’t differ massively amongst the interconnected web of rooms that you’ll progress through, you’re never in any one level long enough to really feel things are becoming too repetitive. That is no easy feat for a game that sees you die and start again frequently – something that will happen due to the natural difficulty of a bullet-hell Roguelike shooter.
In terms of combat, the difficulty is certainly up there with some of the most iconic bullet-hell shooters, especially on later levels. However the controls are simple enough that combat is never inaccessible, even to newcomers of the genre, with the sticks controlling movement and aiming direction, while the triggers sort the attacks. You’ll need to watch for the cooldown timer on those though. Still, there is very little you ever need to be worrying about besides moving quick enough to avoid the barrage of enemy fire and, provided you continuously fire upon the encroaching hordes of enemies, you’ll generally be on the upper hand.
Throughout the campaign, there is also the option to earn coins and various different currencies that can be spent on items within the random in-game shop. Of course, you don’t ever have to spend your coin here, but you’ll generally find the adventure all the more harder if you don’t have extra weaponry and health items available. On top of the shop is a tome within each level and should you have collected the necessary number of shards then these rooms will bring you to a bonus area in which a number of enemies must be disposed of within the time limit. You can get a number of different rewards for a successful bonus room completion. That said, the best finds are always seen within the shop.
Besides the Campaign option, the Gauntlet mode allows you and another local player to team up to take on endless waves in the confined mapped areas. This makes for a great change from the Campaign should you be able to convince a friend or family member to jump in. Should you be feeling a little competitive, there is also a Tournament setting, and options here ensure players are given the same generation seed to compete on equal terms. For those with friends wanting to prove themselves, this can prove rather enjoyable.
There is one extra feature in Hellmut that I simply can’t ignore, and that is the Hell Invaders mini game that is on show within the in-game store. This is as much of a Space Invaders clone as any of the many others out there, but it’s without a doubt one that works well. My best efforts have only resulted in a mere 15 wave finish, but those who enjoy some retro action will no doubt find this just as much of a potential time sink as the replaybility seen in the base game.
Overall though and if you enjoy hectic bullet-hell shooters that offer refreshing gameplay, don’t mind a little permadeath, and don’t want something that takes hours upon hours to invest into, then Hellmut: The Badass from Hell is certainly a game you need to play. It may not bring massive changes to the genre table, and it may rely on a tried and tested formula, but there’s no denying that it’s a solid experience that offers a few good hours of fun, plenty of replayability and comes ready for newcomers and veterans alike to get stuck into the madness.