In a sea of AAA games that take you hours upon hours to finish and see everything they have tucked away in in just about every nook and corner, High Hell is a fast paced indie shooter that can take you literally minutes to beat.
Developed by Terri Vellmann and Doseone, High Hell takes a visual and gameplay cue from the duo’s previous work, Heavy Bullets, by doing away with super detailed visuals in favor of lightning quick gameplay and a generous dose of difficulty. As far as first-person shooters go, High Hell will probably be one of the quickest you’ll ever play through once the way it plays “clicks” with you.
It doesn’t take long at all for that to happen, either. As soon as you grab your gun during the intro stage and start progressing, the at first glance trial and error nature quickly evolves as you develop a sense of placement and movement throughout levels. That might seem overly cryptic and perhaps a little pretentious if you just look at High Hell for what it shows in its screenshots, but there’s a certain level of depth to be found, much like in a game like Hotline Miami, where pinpointing your path is paramount.
Planning out your approach once you figure out what to expect in a mission works out well, but so does going in by the seat of your pants too. The latter way of playing the game is sure to raise your pressure a bit since it’s so easy to die, but frankly, considering that each stage only takes a couple of minutes to run through, hitting the R button and popping back in for another go isn’t as sour as, say, replaying an entire section of Dark Souls.
Still, dying certainly works as a learning tool in a game like High Hell. Even though it doesn’t look like it’s to be taken seriously, thanks to its simple and sometimes downright crude visuals — Terri the developer claimed are intentionally so, during an event held in Sao Paulo lounge by Devolver — having knowledge of enemy placement certainly comes into play if you want to cut your play time even shorter, since they don’t change from run to run.
It’s also easy to fall into patterns of play, thanks to general enemy behavior that basically has grunts chase you down upon detection, giving you the opportunity to ambush them for most of the game. Still, that doesn’t quite work for all fights, especially the ones that take place in open spaces that spawn vertically, with enemies taking pot shots at you from afar — you can counter that by sniping them down yourself if you’re able to tell apart pixel-big characters from the background art. I stuck to this approach for the second half of the game, and that was enough to get me through all the way to the final mission.
That said, there’s something to say about the boss fights. You’re thrown into one every five levels, and they’re really tough at first. Every single one of them has a trick to being beaten, including the ambush strategy I mentioned before, and don’t take a whole of time to kill once you find out what you have to do. They’re challenging and incredibly satisfying, and along with High Hell’s ridiculous loading screens, are probably the best parts of the game.
High Hell is a great pickup if you’re looking for a quick game to jump into and enjoy. It’s not likely that you’re going to take very long to be done with it, but you can be sure it’ll be time well spent.